Researchers at the University of New South Wales have found that snoring can severely impair brain function among sleep apnoea sufferers.
The researchers have found that the changes in brain biochemistry linked with obstructive sleep apnoea have been compared to changes evident in people who have "had a severe stroke or who are dying".
"It used to be thought that apnoea snoring had absolutely no acute effects on brain function but this is plainly not true," News.com.au quoted Professor Caroline Rae, lead author of the study, as saying in a statement.
It is believed that the impairment is caused due to the lack of oxygen reaching the brain during extended pauses in breathing-a common characteristic of severe sleep apnoea.
After studying the brains of 13 men with severe, untreated, obstructive sleep apnoea, the researchers found that even a slight lack of oxygen supply to the brain has an effect on function.
Rae said that they still did not know why the lack of oxygen causes a change in brain chemistry.
"The brain could be basically resetting its bioenergetics to make itself more resistant to lack of oxygen. It may be a compensatory mechanism to keep you alive, we just don't know. But even if it is, it's not likely to be doing you much good," she said.
Twenty five percent of middle-aged men are affected by sleep apnoea, and almost three per cent of them experience a severe form of the condition characterised by extended pauses in breathing, repetitive asphyxia and sleep fragmentation.
Rae said the research findings highlight the importance for people to change their attitude toward snoring.
"People look at people snoring and think it's funny. That has to stop," she said.