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The Damage Done by Snoring

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

The recurrent vibrations caused by snoring can lead to injuries in the upper airways of people who snore heavily. This in turn, can cause swallowing dysfunction and render individuals more vulnerable for developing the severe condition obstructive sleep apnea. These findings are reported by researchers at Umeå University. Their on-going research focuses on the processes behind vibratory damage and healing of the upper airway tract.

Snoring’s recurrent vibrations can lead to injuries in the upper airways

“Besides the disturbing effects, constant snoring can be a significant health risk. Nonetheless, there are indications that our research will guide towards early preventive measures and in the long term also enhance healing of damaged tissue caused by snoring,” says Associate Professor Per Stål, research leader at the Department of Integrative Medical Biology at Umeå University.

Neuromuscular injuries in the upper respiratory tract for snorers and sleep apnea patients

Researchers in Umeå have shown that snorers and sleep apnea patients have neuromuscular injuries in the upper respiratory tract. The injuries can be seen at both the structural and molecular level. Researchers could also observe a correlation between snoring and swallowing dysfunction as well as a relation between nerve damage and obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated collapse of the upper respiratory tract leading to respiratory arrest during sleep, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Here’s what the studies show

The studies show that people who constantly snore heavily and have sleep apnea displayed a loss of nerves and muscle mass in the soft palate. Furthermore, the attempts by the body to heal damaged tissue were disturbed resulting in an abnormal muscle structure. Another interesting finding was that muscle fibers in the soft palate lacked or had a disturbed organization of certain structural proteins. These proteins stabilize the organelles of the muscle cell and support cellular structures related to energy production and muscle fiber contraction.

What the researchers also found

The researchers also found that a neurotransmitter that is normally associated with healing and regeneration of neurons was present in the muscle cells. This finding suggests that the body is trying to heal the injuries, but the recurrent snoring vibrations prevent proper healing. It becomes a vicious circle where snoring causes damage and at the same time disturb healing of injuries, which can lead to swallowing dysfunction and sleep apnea.

“Present findings have given us a clearer picture of the effects of snoring vibrations, which in turn increase the possibilities of finding ways to prevent damage and enhance the body’s healing processes,” says Farhan Shah, one of the researchers in the group.

Muscles and nerve cells now being experimentally grown at Laboratory of Muscle Biology

The research group has now begun to experimentally grow muscles and nerve cells at the Laboratory of muscle biology. The cultured cells will be exposed to harmful vibrations and oxygen desaturation, and the process of damage will be assessed. Thereafter, the cells will be treated with substances previously known for their role in repair and regenerations. Researchers are hopeful that the experiments will generate extensive data that can contribute to new treatment strategies for vibration damage.

The research findings have been published in the scientific journals Chest and Respiratory Research.

From Umeå University


Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.

Node Smith graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in 2017, and is currently licensed as a naturopathic physician in Oregon and working towards becoming licensed in Saskatchewan, Canada as well.

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