Loud Snoring Increases Sleep Apnea Risk
Obviously, snoring doesn’t have to be nearly that loud to disrupt your sleep. Nor does it have to be that loud to be a sign of a problem. Snoring at a much lower level is likely to be linked to sleep apnea risk.
One of the leading studies on this subject studied snorers and analyzed the snoring of more than 1600 snorers referred to a clinic for sleep apnea testing. Researchers found that the louder the snoring, the more severe the sleep apnea. For their study, they used a modified sleep apnea scale that depends on the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which represents the number of times each hour that your breathing stops long enough for you to wake up partially. The scale they used divided up like this:
- No sleep apnea: AHI less than 5
- Mild: AHI 5 to 15
- Moderate: AHI 15 to 30
- Severe: AHI 30 to 50
- Very severe: AHI over 50
In each category, the average volume of snoring was louder than the category before it. For example, the average volume of snoring among people with no sleep apnea was 46 dB. That’s between the sound of a whisper and the average background noise of a house in Detroit. However, the snoring of people with very severe sleep apnea (which they defined as having an AHI of 50 or more) was 60 dB, about the sound of a normal conversation.
So, if a person has a snore that’s as quiet as a whisper, they are less likely to have sleep apnea than someone who snores as loud as people talking normally.
Characteristics That Show Sleep Apnea Risk
Other studies show that it’s the intensity of sound, not the duration, that’s likely linked to sleep apnea. One study found that the more intense the jump in vibrations–a sudden increase in snoring volume–the more likely the risk of sleep apnea. On the other hand, just looking at the amount of time a person snores doesn’t indicate sleep apnea risk. In other words, a person who snores all night quietly is less likely to have sleep apnea than someone who snores intensely and loudly for a short period of time.