Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Snoring and Carotid Artery Disease

There is an intersting article in the June edition of the Sleep Journal about how snoring damages the lining of carotid arteries, which are the large arteries in our necks that supply blood to the brain.

The authors of this study had already shown that heavy snoring is an independent risk factor for carotid atherosclerosis (hardening of the artery). It was postulated that the vibration from snoring damaged the lining of the walls of the carotid arteries, which than could lead to atherosclerosis.

In this study, researchers put a vibratory sound, similar to human snoring, next to the carotids in anesthetized rabbits for six hours. Just this one time exposure to snoring vibrations damaged the lining of the carotid artery. The results of this study are interesting because prior epidemiologic studies with self-reported snoring have been contradictory with regards to harmful effects of snoring. But it has been arugued that the reliance on self-reported snoring is inaccurate, particularly in the absence of a bed partner to hear the snoring. And objective measurements of snoring have not been a routine part of sleep medicine. The results of this study have public health implications, as snoring is estimated to occur in almost half of the population. If snoring does damage adjacent blood vessels, this could increase stroke risk. Therefore, as a field, perhaps it is time we sleep physicians developed ways to quantify snoring and to take snoring more seriously.

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