Getting a good night's sleep is just as important to your overall health as eating well and exercising regularly. That's why it's important to understand that snoring or regularly waking up tired means you probably aren't getting the type of quality sleep you need.
Why is sleep important?
Learn about the different phases of sleep and what they mean, why sleep is so important to your overall health and what happens if you don't get enough of it.
To understand why sleep is important, think of your body like a factory that performs a number of vital functions. As you drift off to sleep, your body begins its night-shift work:
Understanding the sleep cycle
Understanding what happens during sleep also means understanding the sleep cycle, which consists of two recurring phases: REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-REM or non-rapid eye movement). Both phases are important for different functions in our bodies.
NREM sleep typically occupies 75-80% of total sleep each night. Many of the health benefits of sleep take place during NREM sleep - tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored and hormones that are essential for growth and development are released.
REM sleep typically occupies 20-25% of total sleep each night. REM sleep, when dreaming occurs, is essential to our minds for processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. It is also thought to be vital for learning, stimulating the brain regions used in learning and developing new skills.
If the REM and NREM cycles are interrupted multiple times throughout the night - either due to snoring, difficulties breathing or waking up frequently throughout the night - then we miss out on vital body processes, which can affect our health and well-being the next day and long term.
What happens if you don't get enough sleep?
If your body doesn't get a chance to properly recharge - by cycling through REM and NREM - you're already starting the next day at a disadvantage. You might find yourself:Feeling drowsy, irritable or sometimes depressed Struggling to take in new information at work, remembering things or making decisions Craving more unhealthy foods, which could cause weight gain1 If this happens night after night, it places a tremendous strain on your nervous system, body and overall health. So if you're not sleeping well or aren't feeling rested when you wake up in the morning, it's important to talk to your doctor and ask if a sleep study is right for you.
What causes snoring?
Snoring is a common problem caused by the relaxation of muscles in your nose and throat, however it can be an indication of something more serious.
What causes snoring is a question that can be answered multiple ways. From an anatomical standpoint, snoring is caused by a partially closed upper airway (the nose and throat). Everyone's neck muscles relax during sleep, but sometimes they relax so much that the upper airway partly closes and becomes too narrow for enough air to travel through to the lungs. When this happens, it means that a person isn't taking in enough oxygen for the body to perform its important functions. The brain then sends a signal to the body to wake up to get the oxygen it needs, likely resulting in the person waking up throughout the night without realizing it.
Why do people snore?
Why do some people snore and others don't? Those who have enlarged tonsils, an enlarged tongue or excess weight around the neck are more prone to snoring. And structural reasons like the shape of one's nose or jaw can also cause snoring. The snoring sound itself is a result of the narrowing of a person's airway, which causes a throat vibration and the snoring sound. No matter the reason, 40% of normal adults snore regularly,1 whether they realize it or not.
Snoring and sleep apnea
Snoring and sleep apnea are linked at an alarming rate - 1 in 3 men and approximately 1 in 5 women who are habitual snorers suffer from some degree of obstructive sleep apnea.2 Sleep apnea prevents you from getting the healthy sleep you need to lead a refreshed, energetic life. It has also been linked to a number of other health conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart failure and hypertension. So regardless of what is specifically causing snoring for you, if you snore - or if you suspect you snore - consider it a sign that something might not be right.