Snoring could be bad for your heart

Loud snoring at night could be more than a noisy annoyance for your partner — it could be an early warning sign of dangerously high blood pressure.

New research from Flinders University sleep experts found that people, particularly overweight middle-aged men, who regularly snored at night were more likely to have elevated blood pressure and uncontrolled hypertension. 

The study, published in Nature Digital Medicine was the largest objective study to investigate the issue and the first to use multiple night home-based monitoring technologies over a prolonged period to explore the association between snoring and hypertension. 

Lead author Dr Bastien Lechat, from the College of Medicine and Public Health, noted that this was the first time that researchers could objectively and confidently say that there was a significant connection between regular nighttime snoring and high blood pressure.  

“We found that 15% of all participants in the study, who were primarily overweight men, snore for more than 20% of the night on average and that this regular nightly snoring is associated with elevated blood pressure and uncontrolled hypertension,” Dr Lechat said. 

“These results emphasise the significance of considering snoring as a factor in healthcare and treatment for sleep-related issues, especially in the context of managing hypertension.” 

While snoring impacts a large percentage of the population, its negative health implications have been underestimated, with Professor Danny Eckert, the Director of Sleep Health at Flinders University, warning that snoring and sleep apnoea often overlap, indicating shared common causes. 

“We observed that in those who snore regularly the risk of having uncontrolled hypertension was almost double. This risk almost doubled again in people who snored regularly and had sleep apnoea versus those who did not snore regularly,” he said. 

“Snoring alone may also serve as an early warning sign of high blood pressure, as poor sleep quality due to snoring may worsen the risk of hypertension.” 

The study used sleep tracker data collected by an under-mattress sensor to detect snoring and sleep apnoea, along with an FDA-registered at home blood pressure monitor in more than 12,000 participants globally over a nine-month period. 

Approximately 29%, 14% and 7% of the study population snored for an average of >10%, 20%, and 30% per night, respectively, with a higher proportion of time spent snoring associated with a ~1.9-fold increase in uncontrolled hypertension – independent of sleep apnoea. 

“The findings of this study pave the way to further investigate whether therapeutic interventions directed toward snoring can reduce hypertension and reduce the risks associated with it,” Dr Lechat said.