If you are a person who snores, then you have probably heard and read innumerable times that it takes a toll on your sleep quality, which ultimately affects your health. Well, it is one thing to be told something is bad for you, but it is entirely distinct, and a lot more meaningful, when you fully appreciate how your health is being affected by snoring. Learning about the many sleep stages and why each step is so vital to your health will help you understand the long-term impact snoring is having on your health and why it is so important to find a product that will help you stop snoring.
What is Sleep?
Of course, you understand sleep is something you do every evening, but what is its purpose? The study of sleep is relatively new, which is also why case studies correlated with snoring and sleep quality are also much current.
Back in the 1950s, Eugene Aserinsky, a graduate student, handled a tool called an electroencephalograph to discover rapid eye movement sleep. Until this point, rest was thought of as just a dormant posture of the day. We now know that sleep is a phase of the natural body cycle, based on a 24-hour span. There are many stages of sleep, and each one has its characteristics and purposes. In uninterrupted sleep (aka non-snoring sleep), the body flows between the stages to complete 90- to 110-minute cycles all night. It is not the case with people who snore.
The rhythm of sleep is known as the ultradian sleep cycle, and it consists of rapid eye movement (REM), and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages. Each stage has particular physiological functions.
The ordinary non-snorer gets about two full hours of sleep per night in the most profound sleep stage, but this is not the case for snorers. Sadly, you need to cycle within all sleep stages continuously for your body to adequately recharge. As you discover more about these stages, you will understand why you are so exhausted in the morning, even after eight hours of continuous sleep. You will also appreciate why snoring makes it difficult to lose weight and why so often associates with obesity. Of course, like sleep deprivation, lugging around excess pounds also takes a toll on your health.
Quality of sleep gets separated into two categories. First is subjective sleep quality, and it is the feeling you get from being well-rested after a good night’s sleep. The second is an objective quality of sleep. It is the more scientific variety and concluded by professionals by measuring time spent in various sleep phases. The two main contributing factors to outcomes include the number of times a person wakes up during the night and the length of time the person spends in deep sleep stages.
Stages of Sleep
When you are falling asleep, your body´s activity slows down. The short and fast beta waves produced by your brain slow down and transition into alpha waves. It is normal to experience hypnagogic hallucinations and vivid sensation during this phase, such as the sensation of falling or believing that you hear someone call your name. The myoclonic jerk is a usual event, which you have likely felt at some point. The heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperatures all of them drop.
Also known as NREM, N1, or just “dozing off stages” is where you experience somnolence or drowsy sleep. It is the transitional phase. Your brain’s alpha waves shift to theta waves, eyes roll slowly, and muscle tone starts to decrease. Although your body has begun to relax, it is doubtful that your facial and throat muscles tissue have relaxed to the point where you are snoring yet. The first phase lasts 5 to 10 minutes.
Brain waves start showing signs of sleep in the NREM2 stage. The brain exhibits bursts of action called sleep spindles that are undeniably recognizable on an EEG. If you ever see a sleep specialist and look at the record of your sleep brain waves, you will clearly be able to spot these spindles, as they seem like mini earthquake waves on the EEG.
In this phase, all the muscles in your body fully relax. It is where your tongue collapses into your throat and causes the obstruction that produces your snoring. The average non-snoring adult spends about half of their sleeping time in this second stage. Unfortunately, snorers devote a lot more time in this phase than they should.
If your body has to work extra arduous just to get oxygen all night, it is not going to let you jump onto the next stage. Not to mention, if you are undergoing any apneas, your brain is waking you up to allow breathing. So, you drop back again to the first stage to restart the cycle again.
Not to mention, if you have a companion who gives you an elbow to the side or tells you to roll over if you begin snoring loud, they have just disrupted your cycle, too. Either way, you could consume the vast majority of the night going back and forth between these two phases. Sadly, your body does not repair and recharge itself until you reach the following stage. Right about now, you probably have an awakening moment, understanding why you need a pot of coffee to get going in the morning.
During NREM3, delta waves emerge, which are languid brain waves. It is the transitional period into the most profound sleep stage. Slow wave sleep is known to be the most restful stage. It is a restorative phase. There is a rise in your blood supply to your muscles, and tissue growth and repair take place. Energy is restored, and hormones released that are responsible for growth and development. It is also the phase where parasomnias occur, such as sleepwalking, night terrors, Somniloquy, and nocturnal enuresis.
During an unbroken sleep cycle, you should reach the fourth phase in about 90 minutes. You only stay in it a short time, but the time lengthens with each cycle. If you are continually being awakened during the night because of your snoring, then you are seldom going to spend an adequate amount of time at this stage. You may also be interested to know that the brain uses more oxygen through this time than when you are awake. So, if you have a blockage causing snoring and reducing your oxygen supply, there is little chance the brain is obtaining the oxygen it requires unless it is borrowing from other body components.
Through REM sleep, your eyes move back and forth. Muscles are turned off, and energy generates in the brain and body. It is the phase where we burn most calories. This stage adds to a healthy immune system. It also helps manage leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate your appetite by providing feelings of fullness when you eat. It is the reason why sleep loss leads to weight gain; you overeat because your body is saturated.
REM is also known as the dream phase because this is where the most vivid dreams occur. Despite it being a deep sleep phase you experience paradoxical sleep. Your body is sleeping, but your brain stays very alert. It is why you commonly wake up while having a vivid dream.
The Impact Of Sleep On Your Health
Now, you know snoring is taking off from your sleep; it is time to learn just how damaging low-quality rest is. Sleep debt generates emotional, mental, and physical footage.
Mentally, you are at risk for cognitive impairment, memory loss, impaired moral judgment, ADHD-like symptoms, yawning, and poor attention.
Sleep loss slows down wound healing. Studies suggest that sleep deprivation lowers white blood cell count, which makes it harder for the immune system to manage cancers.
Since your heart never slows down to the point where it should be during deep sleep stages, you are at risen risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Poor sleep quality also associates with type 2 diabetes, tremors, growth suppression, aches, decreased reaction time, headaches, fibromyalgia, seizures, hand tremors, and risk of obesity. Of course, in addition to the health concerns listed above, obesity also increases your risk for gallbladder disease, gout, asthma, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and reproductive problems.
The Ultimate Outcome
Snoring is more than just a bothersome sound keeping your spouse, roommate, or children up at night. Every night that your body is deprived of its time in deep sleep stages, you are damaging your present- and long-term health. It is probably pretty disturbing if you know you have been snoring for many years. Fortunately, the solution very well may be just finding an anti-snoring device that helps you. Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and tongue retainers (TRDs) work to keep your air passage open all night. It allows your mouth and throat to be in an “awake” position, so the body does not have to struggle to get the oxygen it needs. It also avoids anyone waking you up, so you stop snoring.
You will notice when you have found an oral appliance that works for you because you will wake up feeling very well-rested and energized. You will start to feel healthier inside and outside, and you will enjoy the peace-of-mind that comes along with knowing you have reduced your risk for diseases and diminished mental health.
Watch a video about a Sleep Study Scoring a Person With Severe Sleep Apnea