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Primary Snoring and the Consequences of Snoring

Dr. Jan Wrede

Last update on 1. September 2020

Snoring without interruptions in one’s breathing is called primary snoring and considered harmless by many medical professionals. But even this simple snoring is not quite as trivial, because every form of snoring is, first of all, a sign of disrupted breathing behaviour and this should generally not be taken lightly. The consequences of snoring are wide-ranging: from halitosis (bad breath) and sleepless partners to the possible suspicion that snoring can increase the risks of having a stroke or somehow be associated with causing them. We will attempt to explain the consequences of snoring. At the end you will also find an overview of snoring aids – ranging from from anti snoring mouthpieces (mandibular advancement devices) and mouth guards to nasal dilators.

Defining the matter

From a medical perspective there are two types of snoring: simple snoring and pathological snoring.

Simple snoring is also called primary snoring or habitual snoring. It can either occur occasionally or become a constant nocturnal companion.

Not pathological, but not exactly healthy either

The “simple” form of snoring affects the majority of snorers and is harmless from a medical point of view. The defining criteria when classifying snorers into pathological and primary snoring categories is the amount of oxygen supply the body receives and the regulation of the circulatory system and the respiratory system during sleep. Primary snoring is not associated with such problems. There are no breathing interruptions during the night and the body’s oxygen saturation level remains unaffected.

Breathing in is quite exhausting!

Nevertheless, life as a habitual snorer can be accompanied by certain symptoms. First of all, the consequences of snoring are respiratory impairments. For example, if the body has to breathe against a resistance caused by an area of constriction or because of obstacles in the nasal passages which results in snoring (so-called nasal snoring). If the resistance is too great or if nasal breathing is permanently impaired, the body inevitably switches from natural, healthy nasal breathing to breathing through the mouth. As a result, many people begin to snore through their mouths (so-called mouth-based snoring).

Another form of respiratory impairment occurs when the tongue slides backwards into the throat during sleep and narrows the airways (so-called tongue-based snoring). The affected person still gets enough air to supply his body with sufficient oxygen, however, they clearly have to breath against a resistance. The result is that they tend to expend more energy during sleep and do not wake up feeling refreshed.

Bad breath and snoring – these two issues are as thick as thieves

Further consequences of snoring often manifest themselves in the oral cavity. It is a fact that snoring causes bad breath (halitosis). Halitosis is triggered by mucous membranes that are too dry, this often occurs because the mouth is open while snoring. The effect is comparable to having a cold; most people can relate to the unpleasant sensation of waking up with a bone-dry mouth which exudes an extremely unpleasant odour.

A dry mouth – or more precisely, dry mucous membranes in the mouth – can lead to the following problems:

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • White coating on the tongue and in the oral cavity
  • Halitosis
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Inflammation of the mouth and throat
  • Infections of the respiratory tract and tonsillitis
  • Increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease
  • Negative influence on digestion

Good to know

In order to classify snoring as either “simple” or “pathological”, one has to evaluate the results of snoring, the key factor being the resistance against which the affected person has to breathe. As a rough rule of thumb one can say: The more laborious breathing becomes during sleep, the closer the snorer is to experiencing sleep apnea. If the resistances increases to the point that breathing stops, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), occurs.

If breathing remains unaffected at all times, despite great resistance and constrictions, and without interruptions in breathing, then so-called UARS snoring (UARS – Upper Airways Resistance Syndrome) is usually observed. The medical classification of this form of snoring is still inconsistent. In most cases, however, UARS is sandwiched directly between “harmless”, primary snoring and pathological snoring.

How come a dry mouth leads to these problems? Dried-out mucous membranes are more susceptible to pathogens and inflammation develops as a result. In addition, the composition of the bacteria in the oral cavity, the so-called oral flora, changes. Putrefying bacteria gain control of your mouth and this is accompanied by unpleasant odours.

Nobody has ever slept well in a sawmill

In many cases, the typical soundscape of snoring during the night is not only annoying, but can also lead to very specific complaints; for the snorer themselves, on the one hand and for their affected partner, on the other hand. The British Lung Foundation conducted a study wherein they interviewed the partners of snorers. Basically the result of the study as, expressed in key words, was: “my partner snores and I can’t sleep”! Expressed in numbers; 41% of the women interviewed felt that the nocturnal noises of their partner were very disturbing. For men, on the other hand, it was only 24%. This may be due to the fact that women snore more quietly or to the fact that men generally sleep more deeply.

One of the consequences of snoring is the fact that around 70% of all those affected lose at least two hours of sleep per night as a result of their partner snoring.

The consequences of snoring

Too little sleep can lead to fatigue, daytime drowsiness and lack of concentration, as well as morning headaches and psychological problems. Those who get too little sleep because of snoring are not only annoyed and overtired, but are also at risk heart disease. For people who sleep a maximum of five hours a day, their risk increases 2.2 fold. Researchers say that it is possible that too little sleep leads to a disruption of the glucose metabolism and also increases blood pressure. These in turn are “ideal prerequisites” for the development of vascular diseases. However, the exact mechanism has not yet been fully clarified.

Not only does the snorer’s partner get too little sleep, but the snorer, themselves, also suffers from lack of sleep, as well, as their sleep is also disturbed, either by their own tendency to snore, by an annoyed partner waking them up or unconsciously due to an arousal reflex as a result of OSAS.

Stroke – no thank you!

According to recent studies, primary snoring is potentially an even more serious offender, because it could lead to an increased risk of stroke. A stroke is caused by circulatory disorders within the brain. In most cases, this is caused by incremental changes in the blood vessels over time, for example due to vascular calcification (arteriosclerosis). As a result the blood can no longer flow unhindered and the oxygen supply to the brain is insufficient, the brain is thus deprived of oxygen and it stops functioning.

In 2013, the Henry Ford Clinic in Detroit investigated the carotid arteries of primary snorers and was able to detect changes there that could lead to a stroke or cardiovascular disease. However, this study alone has not yet sufficiently proven that or how snoring can contribute to causing a stroke or even increase the risk of its occurrence. The other studies that have been initiated should provide more clarification. However, the results are not yet available.

You can also easily find out why exactly you snore and determine what type of snorer you are through the help of our snoring test and learn how to stop snoring at the same time.

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Dr. Jan Wrede

Medical Doctor, Berlin

Jan Wrede works as a medical doctor in Berlin. He studied medicine at FAU University in Erlangen-Nuremberg and Semmelweis University in Budapest. He had already written numerous scientific articles during his studies, especially on the subject of snoring.

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