Snoring is generally considered little more than a bedroom annoyance. It can cause spouses or partners to simply move to another bedroom or spend the entire night elbowing or shaking the snoring sleeper. To add insult to injury, snoring is generally treated as a cosmetic problem for insurers; if the person does not have sleep apnea, treating the problem can amount to a great deal of personal expense. A new study conducted by researchers from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan indicates that snoring may be indicative of greater health issues. They state that snoring may be the first sign of cardiovascular damage, and that it should be treated in the same manner as smoking, obesity and other risks for cardiovascular disease.

Sleep apnea has long been linked to cardiovascular diseases and other health problems. The condition is marked by loud snoring, closing of the airways and periodic lack of oxygen to the brain. However, many people who snore do not actually have sleep apnea. The study has found that even still, snoring, and the subsequent trauma and inflammation, may cause changes in the carotid artery.

The study examined the data of 913 patients between the ages of 18 and 50. Each had participated in a sleep study at the hospital's sleep center between the years 2006 and 2012. None of the participants had been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Some of the patients answered a survey about their snoring and had undergone an ultrasound that measured the intima-media thickness of the carotid arteries, which measures how thick the inner layers of the arterial wall are. That finding is often the first sign of carotid artery disease.

The researchers found that the carotid arteries were thicker in snorers than in non-snorers. In fact, their findings were comparable to what is seen for patients who smoke or who have diabetes or hypertension.

The findings will be presented this week at the Combined Sections Meeting of the Triological Society in Scottsdale, Arizona.