Chronic Bronchitis and Snoring Linked

A study by researchers at Korea University Ansan Hospital[1] finds that recurrent snoring seems to be associated with the development of chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is clinically defined as a persistent cough that produces phlegm and mucus, for at least three months in two consecutive years. It is usually part of a syndrome known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)[2].

In the paper, published in the January 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, 4,270 individuals (52 percent men and 48 percent women) were studied, from 2001 to 2006. At the start of the study, participants gave information on health conditions, demographics, family disease history and lifestyle, as well as details about how often they snored.

Every two years they were re-interviewed and classified as developing chronic bronchitis if they reported having a cough and sputum (phlegm produced during cough) on most days for at least three months per year for at least two years but did not have an asthma diagnosis.

Snorers 25% More Likely to Have Bronchitis

During four years of follow-up, there were 314 cases of individuals who developed chronic bronchitis. Even after taking into account age, smoking and other bronchitis risk factors, individuals who snored regularly were more likely to develop bronchitis than those who did not.

Compared with those who never snored, individuals who snored six five times per week or less were 25 percent more likely and those who snored six to seven times per week were 68 percent more likely to develop bronchitis. The association was strongest in individuals who had never smoked, who worked in the home or who were overweight.

“The mechanisms underlying the association between snoring and chronic bronchitis are largely unknown”,  the study concludes.

“It has been suggested that structural or functional changes in the airway due to inflammation may cause snoring and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Conversely, repeated snoring vibrations may act as mechanical stresses, leading to increased inflammatory response in the upper airway. Further investigations are needed to confirm the association between snoring and chronic bronchitis and to explore the mechanisms underlying the association.”

How to Tell if you Have Bronchitis

Bronchitis symptoms can include an expectorating cough, shortness of breath (dyspnea) and wheezing. Infrequently, chest pains, fever, and fatigue or malaise may also occur.

Doctors examining patients will listen for characteristic breath sounds, wheezing and prolonged expiration breaths, along with the presence of a persistent dry or wet cough, as evidence of bronchitis. Tests may be performed include chest X-rays, blood test, and sputum sample analysis. Around half of all cases of acute bronchitis are caused by a bacteria or virus[3].


1. Association of Snoring With Chronic Bronchitis– Inkyung Baik; Jehyeong Kim; Robert D. Abbott; Soonjae Joo; Kihwan Jung; Sungyong Lee; Jaejeong Shim; Kwangho In; Kyungho Kang; Sehwa Yoo; Chol Shin Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(2):167-173

2. Bach PB, Brown C, Gelfand SE, McCrory DC (2001). “Management of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a summary and appraisal of published evidence”. Ann. Intern. Med. 134 (7): 60020

3. Macfarlane J, Holmes W, Gard P, et al (2001). “Prospective study of the incidence, aetiology and outcome of adult lower respiratory tract illness in the community”. Thorax 56 (2): 10914

image : David Gregor  & Debbie Marshall, Wellcome Images

Like This Article? Sciencebeta has a free 3 times weekly digest of the most interesting and intriguing articles in psychology, neuroscience, neurology, and cognitive sciences. Want to give it a try? Subscribe right here