Skip to content

Wait, Can Snoring Cause Cognitive Decline? The Answer May Shock You

Jamie Schneider
June 14, 2023
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
By Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Image by Alexey Kuzma / Stocksy
June 14, 2023

Snoring can seriously mess with your sleep quality—and we know deep, restorative sleep is crucial for your body to function at its best. It's why sleep deprivation over time can result in a host of issues, including brain and mental health concerns.

In fact, some researchers think snoring can actually lead to early cognitive decline. Ahead, everything you need to know about the snoring-cognition connection and how to sleep more soundly. 

The link between snoring & dementia

It turns out, 50% of people who snore on a regular basis actually deal with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, resulting in brief but repeated interruptions in breathing. 

Researchers wanted to discover just how strong the sleep apnea connection is for cognition, so they studied the brains1 of 27 middle-aged, healthy men with untreated OSA. The results? Participants with severe OSA had reduced vigilance, executive functioning, short-term visual recognition memory, and social and emotion recognition than the control group. Even participants with mild OSA had cognitive deficits compared to the control group, though they performed better than those with a more severe condition. 

Translation: Sleep apnea (which is characterized by loud snoring) is strongly associated with cognitive deficits in otherwise healthy men—and as early as middle age. 

Researchers believe the low oxygen and high carbon dioxide in the blood, changes in blood flow to the brain, and neuroinflammation is what causes these brain health concerns. And over time, it's not great news for cognitive longevity. 

Tips to stop snoring 

Here's the thing: You need to seek out professional treatment for sleep apnea, as you may need to make lifelong lifestyle changes or invest in oral devices or surgery to help keep your airways open while you sleep.

On the lifestyle front, though, there are plenty of expert-approved ways to kick a snoring habit. We have a full guide to snoring here, but see below for some highlights: 


Sleep on your side.

If you sleep flat on your back, consider curling up on your side instead. Sleeping on your side opens up your nasal airway passages, while sleeping on your back can cause your airway to become blocked or narrowed, which causes a vibrating sound when you breathe.

Here, find the best side-sleeping pillows to keep you from flipping onto your back without cramping your shoulder and neck. 


Go to bed earlier.

To keep snoring from becoming a problem, it's important to get as much quality sleep as you can. See, drowsiness can relax your throat and tongue muscles, much like alcohol, and set you up for snoring.

What's more, sleep apnea also reduces REM sleep and creates low testosterone—which, in turn, creates more sleep apnea (it's a vicious cycle). 

It's easier said than done, but try to clock more hours of shut-eye if you can. Try winding down an hour or two before bed, participate in nonstimulating activities, dim the lights in your home, and reduce screen time before bed to secure a sounder sleep. 

You may even want to incorporate a relaxing sleep supplement into your routine if you need an extra nudge—here, find our best melatonin-free options


Use a humidifier.

Blocked up sinuses? You're probably experiencing some throat and nasal inflammation, which can lead to loud mouth breathing and snoring.

And dry air only exacerbates any congestion you may be feeling. That's why experts recommend using a humidifier to keep your throat and nasal passages moist and clear. For what it's worth, it's also a surefire way to wake up with dewy skin. Find our favorite humidifiers for sinus problems here.

The takeaway 

Not all snorers have sleep apnea, but if you snore loudly on a regular basis, there's a 50% chance you could be dealing with the common condition. And sleep apnea is not something you want to leave untreated, as it can lead to a host of issues down the road, including dementia. You'll want to visit a doctor to determine your personal plan of action, but just a few lifestyle changes can make a significant difference. 

Jamie Schneider author page.
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.