Snoring, while considered annoying by many, is rarely seen as a serious symptom of illness. However, in some cases it can be an indication of a breathing disorder, namely obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. In particular, very loud and inconsistent snoring can indicate this condition, which can cause life-threatening pauses in breathing.
Approximately five percent of the population is affected by this condition, with overweight middle-aged men being at particular risk of developing the disease.
Among sleep apneas, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a very common form. In this case, the muscles of the palate relax during sleep, which can cause the upper airways to narrow. As a result, the breathing of the affected person is disturbed, which can even lead to respiratory failure. The drop in the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood causes the respiratory center in the brain to react, activating the respiratory muscles. The body tries to compensate for the lack of oxygen with a few, forceful breaths, usually causing the sufferer to wake up, which is also known as arousal. The duration of the pauses in breathing can be only a few seconds, but in some circumstances can last up to two minutes. It is possible for such breathing pauses to occur several times a night, however, most people do not remember being jolted out of sleep by these breathing pauses the next day.
As repeated pauses in breathing make the body less able to supply oxygen, it tries to increase oxygen supply by increasing the output of the heart. In some cases, this can lead to blood pressure problems or cardiac arrhythmias.
In addition to the obstructive form, there is also centrally caused sleep apnea. In this form, the reasons for the pauses in breathing do not lie in the respiratory tract, but in the respiratory muscles. The diaphragm and the respiratory muscles of the chest no longer work satisfactorily, which is why there is a lack of oxygen and the affected person wakes up from sleep. Central sleep apnea mostly affects older people, but this form is usually not very dangerous, which is why it rarely requires medical treatment. However, if there are other health problems, such as heart disease or nerve failure, you should definitely see a doctor.