FRIDAY, Oct. 1, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Your chances of getting a peaceful night's sleep are better if you don't smoke, or spend time around anyone who does.
That's because smoking -- both active and passive -- makes it more likely you'll snore the night away, according to a study in the October issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
"Smoking is a common cause of snoring. Even passive smoke can induce snoring," said study co-author Dr. Karl Franklin, a professor at University Hospital in Umea, Sweden, who added that the most important take-away message from this study is to stop smoking if you're a smoker.
Habitual snoring is a common problem. Between 16 percent and 33 percent of men and 8 percent and 19 percent of women are thought to be habitual snorers. Habitual snoring is defined as loud and disturbing snoring at least three times a week, the researchers said.
Along with being a well-known cause of marital strife, nighttime snoring can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, which can put you at risk in situations that require attentiveness, such as driving. Snoring has also been linked to ailments such as diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension and increased mortality in men under 60, according to Franklin.
Snoring is caused by an obstruction in the nasal passages, said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist at New York University Medical Center in New York City.
"Normally, air is getting pushed through a narrow tube as you breathe. If it's narrower than normal, there will be more noise," said Siegel, who pointed out that's one reason why obesity is strongly linked to an increase in snoring -- as you gain weight, your nasal passages become smaller.
Franklin said the researchers have three theories on why cigarette smoke increases the risk of snoring. The first is that smoking, whether active or passive, irritates and inflames and narrows the upper airways. Another theory is that nicotine withdrawal during sleep may cause certain physiological changes that make snoring more likely. And, finally, because nicotine is toxic to nerve cells, smoke may cause toxic lesions on the nerves in the muscles of the upper airways.
Franklin's study included more than 15,000 men and women between the ages of 25 and 54. They were from Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. All answered a questionnaire that included questions on smoking, snoring, chronic bronchitis, obesity, gender and age.
Snoring was far more prevalent in smokers than in those who had never smoked, 24 percent versus 13.7 percent. Former smokers weren't off the hook either -- 20.3 percent of them snored. Nearly 20 percent of people who had never smoked, but were exposed to cigarette smoke on a daily basis at home, were habitual snorers.
After calculating for other snoring risk factors, such as obesity, gender and age, current smoking was responsible for a 17 percent increase in snoring, and passive smoking a 2.2 percent increase. Obesity increased the risk of snoring by 4.3 percent.
"Smoking does predispose you to snoring because it inflames the nasal passages, so it also makes sense that passive smoke can because passive smoke is unfiltered smoke," Siegel said.
However, Siegel added he had one problem with the study -- the information was gathered solely by questionnaire, which is generally not considered the most reliable way to collect information, especially if you're asking about behavior that goes on while you sleep.
"Your partner is probably a better judge of whether you snore or not," Siegel said.
But, he added, it would be very difficult and expensive to do a completely objective study on snoring.
If you'd like to stop your nocturnal noisemaking, Siegel suggests quitting smoking, staying away from people who smoke, losing weight, and treating sinus infections and any allergies you may have. Also, avoid eating just before going to bed and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, he said.
To learn more about snoring and what you can do about it, visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery.