Snorers who sleep more than nine hours a night are twice as likely to develop bowel cancer than snorers who get seven hours of sleep a night, according to new research conducted at Harvard in the USA.
According to the Harvard study, snoring isn’t just annoying it poses very serious risks to a person’s health.
The study showed a significant link between long periods of sleep and the development of colorectal cancer, especially among people who are overweight or who snore. As a result, it is believed that obstructive sleep apnoea, a form of snoring that causes interrupted breathing during sleep, could contribute to an increased risk of cancer. One of the effects of sleep apnoea is that you are likely to suffer from excess fatigue because of disrupted sleep and this makes sufferers prone to sleeping longer to try to catch up.
The researchers asked participants to estimate their total hours of sleep in a 24-hour period and asked them if they snore.
A statement from the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School gave the following information:
‘Our current study adds to the very limited literature regarding the relationship between sleep duration, sleep quality and colorectal cancer risk. The novel observation of increased risk among regular snorers who sleep for long periods raises the possibility that sleep apnoea and its intermittent oxygen deprivation may contribute to cancer risk.’
Of 76,368 women and 30,121 men the researchers documented a total of 1,973 cases of colorectal cancer – almost 2 per cent of the total.
They broke the participants into subgroups which showed that men and women who were overweight, or who were regular snorers, and who reported sleeping nine hours or more per day, had a 1.4 to 2-fold increased risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to overweight people, or snorers, who got seven hours sleep a day.
The general recommendation is that most adults should get about seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
The authors suggest that the association between long sleep duration and colorectal cancer may be explained by obstructive sleep apnoea, which involves repetitive episodes of complete or partial upper airway obstruction during sleep.
The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnoea is excess body weight, and loud snoring is a common symptom of the condition.
The researchers strongly believe that sleep disruption caused by heavy snoring may reduce sleep quality and increase sleepiness, resulting in longer reported sleep durations. In addition to this, intermittent oxygen deprivation, similar to that which occurs in people with sleep apnoea, has been shown in animal models to promote significant tumour growth.
Other recent research has shown that people who sleep for less than six hours a night are at a significantly increased risk of stroke.
Researchers at the University of Alabama found that those in middle age who skimped on sleep were more likely to suffer stroke symptoms than those who got at least nine hours of shut-eye – even if they were a healthy weight and with no family history of stroke. Yet again, the scientists found that heavy snoring made the problem worse as it reduced the quality of people’s sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that individual sleep needs vary. However, the general recommendation is that most adults should get about seven to eight hours of nightly sleep.
Relate this information to your own problem of snoring and take some immediate steps to reduce it – it’s ‘sound advice’.
By John Redfern