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What Causes Snoring and What It Means For Your Health

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What is it

Snoring is characterized by partial obstruction of airways that results in noise while breathing. While snoring is a fairly common occurrence, it has the potential to affect sleep quality and physiological parameters, while some snoring can be benign. In addition, snoring can be disruptive to other individuals’ sleep if present in the same room, and is a fairly common stressor for families and partnerships.

How it is measured

Snoring is most often measured by microphone recording during sleep. Biostrap uses the microphone in the individual’s phone, placed near their bed during sleep, which can detect snoring patterns throughout the night. This allows measurement of frequency and intensity of snoring that is otherwise difficult to quantify without a sleep study. 

Biostrap reports snoring level severity as: none, mild, moderate or severe

Correlation with health conditions

Snoring itself can wake up both the individual and others present during sleep, which can affect sleep quality and duration, leading to increased fatigue. However, more importantly, snoring can be associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when airways are obstructed enough to restrict airflow. In typical sleep apnea, airflow is restricted for 10+ seconds for an average of 5 times per hour. This can lead to impaired oxygen transportation and have downstream physiological effects.

Many times, sleep apnea requires intervention in order to improve health outcomes associated with the disorder. While snoring can occur in the absence of sleep apnea, snoring intensity (measured in decibels) is positively correlated with obstructive sleep apnea intensity, and therefore warrants monitoring of snoring frequency and intensity, along with other physiological metrics to screen for sleep apnea.

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Normal or acceptable range

It is estimated that ~49% of people experience occasional snoring, while 10-36% of people snore regularly. Currently, there are no recommended ranges or normative values for snoring, but generally less is better. Simple interventions, such as postural changes, breathing devices, and room conditions, can lead to decreased snoring, potentially increasing sleep quality. 

Interpreting Trends

Monitoring snoring over time may illustrate if/when snoring begins to affect physiology. Should snoring coincide with decreased SpO2, increased heart rate, awakenings, or self-reported fatigue, it is likely that snoring is affecting the quality of sleep, and may warrant intervention. Any changes in behaviors aimed at reducing snoring (postural changes, breathing devices, or room conditions) can be quantified using Biostrap’s sleep analysis, measuring snoring, sleep stages, awakenings, heart rate, SpO2, and more.