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Steven Y Park, MD  
Male, 54
New York, NY

Specialties: Sleep-breathing disorders

Interests: Running, Baking, origami
Private Practice
New York, NY
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The 5 Dangers of Benign Snoring

Nov 18, 2009 - 17 comments



Sleep Apnea


benign snoring


Heart Disease





Snoring is so common these days that it's synonymous with sleep. In the movies or on TV, a sleeping person is depicted with snoring sounds. Even in the comics, the ZZZZZZZZs that you see coming from the sleeper may signify snoring.

Within the sleep community, we often use the term benign snoring to mean snoring without any sleep apnea. We see it as the least important form of obstructed breathing, without any medical consequences. Every time I see this in our medical journals or in the media, I get mildly annoyed, since there's so much information to show that snoring is never benign.

Snoring itself is usually caused by vibrations from the soft palate. Think of a reed in a wind instrument, or a flag flapping in strong winds making lots of noise. In the human throat, any degree of abnormal narrowing of the throat promotes vibrations of the free edge of the soft palate. The loudest recorded snore was found in a British woman whose sound levels reached 113 dB, which is louder than a low-flying jet. There are other areas in the throat that vibrate and make sounds, but they're probably a secondary effect of the soft palate vibrations.

Here are 5 reasons why snoring is never benign:

1. If you snore, you have a 35% chance of having obstructive sleep apnea, which is a potentially serious medical condition where you stop breathing multiple times every hour, leading to oxygen deprivation, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is to undergo a formal overnight sleep study. If you stop breathing at least 5 times every hour, with each episode lasting 10 seconds or longer, then you're told you have sleep apnea. But what if you stop breathing 15 times every hour, but you wake up after 1-5 seconds for each episode? Then you're told you don't have sleep apnea, with no clear explanation why you're so tired all the time.

2. It's been shown experimentally in rabbits that artificially applying vibrations to the carotid artery causes thickening of the carotid artery walls, similar to what we see in humans with plaques.

3. Snoring without sleep apnea has been shown to increase your chances of being involved in a car accident.

4. Not only is snoring potentially dangerous for your own health, it also disrupts your bed-partner's sleep quality, health, and relationships. There have been reports of bed-partners becoming deaf in one ear.

5. By not taking snoring seriously, it's likely that you'll delay diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea. Many people try various over-the-counter anti-snore aids with mixed results. Most end up giving up until the problem gets worse.

If you or your loved one snores, take it seriously and get it checked out by a sleep physician or an ear, nose and throat doctor. Even if you're found not to have sleep apnea, treat the snoring. Just because the sleep study doesn't say you have sleep apnea doesn't mean that you don't have a sleep-breathing problem.

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620923 tn?1452915648
by selmaS, Nov 18, 2009
What if the dr at the sleep clinic refuses to do a study and recommends behavior training and meds to aid in better
sleep ?

I saw a sleep clinic dr 3 times and can not afford to continue if I am not even going to be checked for nething.

How do I get this dr to take me seriously?

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Nov 18, 2009

Do you have a snoring problem, or do you have insomnia?

Avatar universal
by choo_choo, Nov 18, 2009
Thanks for the article.

Lisa Marie

620923 tn?1452915648
by selmaS, Nov 18, 2009
Dr Park...I deff snore...and at times suffer insomnia.I was also told it was a symptom of my other condition and I did try to have it checked....but I felt the Dr did not take me seriously.

Both my DD and DH claim I am very loud. I am not aware of course, but I am told I am pretty bad.

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Nov 18, 2009
There are a number of generic things that you can do to stop snoring, including not eating late or drinking alcohol, not sleeping on your back, losing weight, and sleeping with a tennis ball on your back. These options work only sometimes. Taking sleeping pills is not the answer. Try the conservative approach your doctor recommends and when it doesn't work, your doctor will most likely send you for a sleep study. A home-based sleep study is another option that can be ordered right away.

620923 tn?1452915648
by selmaS, Nov 18, 2009
Well, I was sent to the sleep clinic for a study, but the Dr there did not feel the need to do one, I was to see him 3 times and nothing he suggested worked,Each visit was 125.00 with insurance....I can not afford to continue to go. I also do not understand Y he did not just do the study.

I do not drink Alcohol, eat late, and I tend to sleep on my side.I actually do have a lumbar pillow which I do use if I am on my back.
I had my tonsils and adenoids out in the second grade.

What is a home based sleep study?

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Nov 19, 2009
Home studies are simpler, more comfortable sleep tests that are done in your home, in your bed. Usually, there are only 1-3 wires or probes, rather than dozens in a formal sleep center study. It's not as comprehensive, but a good option as a screening test.

620923 tn?1452915648
by selmaS, Nov 19, 2009
Is the home study conducted by the same sleep centers that do the more involved studies?

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Nov 19, 2009
It can be done either by the sleep center, or an independent company. Your sleep doctor should know about it.

1066198 tn?1333309028
by psyvamp, Nov 19, 2009
It is called an nocturnal oximetry test...even most all general practioners/family doctors can set one up for you... and interpret the results... depending on the severity-- a FORMAL sleep study is usually then ordered.!
Good luck, selmaS...

Avatar universal
by guitah, Nov 19, 2009
I had a sleep study done a couple of years ago.  The doctor told me that I had sleep deprivation rather than sleep apnea.  But I was given no recommendations or suggestions on how to relieve the problem.  I am so tired at times that I can hardly move my body.  I have fallen asleep while eating or using my computer at work.  What can you suggest?  I am becoming desparate.

334400 tn?1276894313
by Crochetya, Nov 20, 2009
Dr. Park,

What does it mean when you have been dx with sleep apnea 5 yrs ago. I recently had another sleep study ordered by my PCP and the setting numbers on my machine went from 7 to 14. Can sleep apnea get worst?

Avatar universal
by Jaquta, Nov 20, 2009
My father sounds like a freight train when he sleeps.  He refuses to do anything about it.
Other family members are sleeping as far away from his room as possible.  I find the disturbed sleep exhausting.
I find the link to heart disease interesting.  My father also isn't very sharp during the day which my mother's doctor thinks may be due to his snoring.

Avatar universal
by KTJLMTS, Nov 20, 2009
My husband has sleep apnea.  (Not officially diagnosed, but he will take 3 or 4 normal breaths, then followed by 3 or 4 movements of chest & diaphragm, but no air intake, followed by a gasp.  This happens many times per hour.)  

In the last month, he finds he is getting winded with even short walks outside, and gets dizzy after half a minute on the treadmill.  

Sleep study is scheduled for January 2010.  Should I push him to continue to exercise even if he gets winded?  I hate for him to just sit from now til January.

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Nov 20, 2009

Home sleep studies can be anything from oxygen levels (not too useful) to nasal airflow monitors or finger probes that measure nervous system contractility (that indirectly measures breathing pauses).


There are many reasons for chronic fatigue. In general, it's treatable. Talk to your sleep doctor. What you're experiencing is not normal. It can also be dangerous.


Since your pressure went up, it's likely your sleep apnea got worse. Did you gain weight?


He has 300 to 500% higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. Sleep Apnea also affects brain function. If he drives, his a danger to himself and others.


What you're describing sounds more like a medical problem. He should be checked by his medical doctor to make sure he doesn't have any heart or lung problems. As I mentioned before, sleep apnea can cause heart problems.

Avatar universal
by Jaquta, Nov 20, 2009
Dear Dr Park

Thank you for taking the time to respond to our comments.

Those stats have blown me away.  My father often sits clutching his chest (although he says he has no chest pain).  His driving is also atrocious and in my opinion he shouldn't be on the road.

My parents were both sent letters from the doctor's surgery to participate in a free heart health assessment.  With any luck sleep issues will be discussed at the same time.

Thank you for the feedback and for the very informative journal.

Avatar universal
by youcanbest, Jul 01, 2010
Snoring arises when breathing is obstructed. This can be caused by a cold or an anatomical
irregularity in the nose or throat.

However, the most common cause of snoring is, that the muscles in and around the throat
relax too much when we are asleep. This means that the opening in the throat becomes
narrow, and air has difficulty in passing.

You can look into anti-snoring nasal drops. The nasal drop lubricates and softens the
mucous membrane and lightly tightens the musculature in the throat. This means that
breathing is not disturbed in any way, and that your mouth will not be as dry in the morning.
Check out the link below for more details.

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