A new study by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
has identified 173 genes linked to snoring and confirmed
overweight, middle-aged men who smoke are the most likely to
have the sleep condition.
The study findings have been
published in the journal Nature
Senior author and study leader, Dr
Miguel E. Renteria from QIMR Berghofer’s Genetic
Epidemiology group, said the 173 genes were situated on 42
regions of the human genome.
“This is the largest
population-wide study of the genetics of snoring to date and
provides a new insight into the sleeping condition which
affects one in three people,” Dr Renteria
“We were able to identify the genes by
comparing differences in the DNA profiles of about 150,000
snorers to the genetic information of more than 250,000
non-snorers that is held in the UK Biobank.
looked at the effects of body mass index (BMI), smoking, and
alcohol consumption on the likelihood of someone being a
snorer, and conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS)
to identify specific parts of the human genome that harbour
genes that increase the risk of snoring.
used that information to develop genetic risk scores for the
predisposition to snore in a group of 8,000 Australian
adults, and were able to identify those at high-risk and
those at low-risk, based on their genes.
the genes we found that are associated with snoring have
previously been linked to respiratory, cardio-metabolic,
neurological and psychiatric traits.”
said the study also confirmed a genetic overlap between
snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea, with almost 80 per
cent of the genes involved in snoring risk also affecting a
person’s risk for obstructive sleep apnoea.
apnoea is a serious condition that affects breathing during
sleep. According to the Australian Institute of Health and
Welfare, it reduces airflow which causes intermittent dips
in the amount of oxygen in the blood and disturbs
It can lead to health problems such as
pulmonary hypertension, diabetes and heart disease and is
often underdiagnosed in the population, but loud snoring is
one of its most important symptoms.
Snoring is defined
as noisy breathing during sleep that is the result of
vibrations in the upper airways. Habitual snoring is mostly
considered a harmless condition.
First author and QIMR
Berghofer PhD candidate, Adrian Campos, said the study
confirmed that snoring was overall more prevalent among men
than women and the probability of snoring increased with age
“We also found that smoking and alcohol
consumption both increased the risk for snoring in men and
women,” Mr Campos said.
“However, drinking alcohol
increased the risk of snoring in men more than it did in
women. Conversely, smoking increased a woman’s risk of
snoring to a greater degree than it did in
“While snoring is often joked about as a strain
in relationships, and many people don’t take it too
seriously, we wanted to perform a rigorous scientific
analysis to understand its biological basis and to examine
its relationship with sleep apnoea and other health
The researchers say they now plan to
build on the study findings by using genetic data to further
examine the relationship between snoring and obstructive
The research was conducted in
collaboration with The University of Queensland and was
supported by the National Health and Medical Research
Council, Australian Research Council, and a Research
Training Scholarship from The University of