The recurrent vibrations caused by snoring can lead to injuries in the upper airways of people who snore heavily. This, in turn, can cause swallowing dysfunction and render individuals more vulnerable for developing the severe condition obstructive sleep apnea. These findings are reported by researchers at Umeå University, Sweden.
Researchers in Umeå have shown that snorers and sleep apnea patients have neuromuscular injuries in the upper respiratory tract. The injuries can be seen at both the structural and molecular level. Researchers could also observe a correlation between snoring and swallowing dysfunction as well as a relation between nerve damage and obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated collapse of the upper respiratory tract, leading to respiratory arrest during sleep, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The studies show that people who constantly snore heavily and have sleep apnea displayed a loss of nerves and muscle mass in the soft palate. Furthermore, the attempts by the body to heal damaged tissue were disturbed, resulting in an abnormal muscle structure. Another interesting finding was that muscle fibres in the soft palate lacked or had a disturbed organization of certain structural proteins. These proteins stabilize the organelles of the muscle cell and support cellular structures related to energy production and muscle fibre contraction.
The researchers also found that a neurotransmitter that is normally associated with healing and regeneration of neurons was present in the muscle cells. This finding suggests that the body is trying to heal the injuries, but the recurrent snoring vibrations prevent proper healing. It becomes a vicious circle in which snoring causes damage, and at the same time, disturbs healing of injuries, which can lead to swallowing dysfunction and sleep apnea.
More Information and Research Detail, Farhan Shah et al, Desmin and dystrophin abnormalities in upper airway muscles of snorers and patients with sleep apnea, Respiratory Research (2019). DOI: 10.1186/s12931-019-0999-9
Provided by Umea University, Sweden.