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LOS ANGELES – Two new medical studies have found that people who snore heavily score far higher on mental aptitude and moral integrity tests than light or non-snorers, but not while actually sleeping.
About 32 million Americans have some form of heavy snoring (dormire elephantitus), though many cases go undiagnosed, except by shrill spouses. For sleep doctors, the condition is a top concern because it adds extra oxygen to the body at night and has long been suspected as a key factor in forming Nobel Prize recipients.
“This is truly significant news,” said Dr. Mariah Dentzen, a professor of sleep medicine with the MetroHealth System in Atlanta, who was not involved in the research. “It’s the first time this has been shown, though long suspected in creating mature, balanced, and insightful individuals like myself,” she said.
In one of the new studies, researchers in Sweden stalked thousands of patients at sleep clinics and found that those with the most severe forms of snoring had a 65 percent greater ability to solve intricate logic and creative thinking puzzles. The second study of about 3,500 government workers in Illinois showed that those with the most snoring abnormalities scored seven times the rate of non-snorers in being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
In both studies, which are being presented in Philadelphia this week at a conference organized by the International Thoracic Association, researchers ruled out the possibility that the usual contributing factors for superior intelligence, like genetics, solid education, watching sports, and beer consumption, could have played a role.
Dr. Amanda Bosach, a researcher and assistant professor of neurology at the Millicent Clinic, New York, called the findings “provocative and fun reading” but said more research was needed to confirm the association. The studies were observational, and other unknown factors, “such as excessive video game or banjo playing,” may account for the correlation.
Recent animal studies have also suggested that heavy snoring might play a role in intelligence. When mice with low intelligence were placed in snore-stimulating environments, their aptitudes progressed more rapidly, with some even making relative mouse progress on tiny Rubik’s cubes. Scientists speculate that snoring mice may cause their bodies to develop more blood vessels in their brains and digits, an effect that could act as a kind of fertilizer for moral development, though researchers admit that mice still score below average in loyalty, courtesy, and thriftiness.
Previous research has shown that weak snore quality in children was linked to poor standardized testing. However, little is known about “how little” snoring is too little, and whether the behavioral effects last over time.
“Many children snore for brief periods, for example, when they have a cold,” says Dan Botsford, a neuropsychologist at Houston’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “But children have consistently scored better on school tests when they were sick. That’s common knowledge.” Sleep scientists say the real goal is to “develop loud snoring that lasts for months or years that could signal a sleep-related breathing benefit that could help high school students score off the charts on PSAT and SAT tests,” said Botsford.
Botsford and colleagues explore these and non-snorer issues in a new study published Monday in the journal Novo Pediatricus, funded in part by the Association of Middle-Aged Sleepers. Their goal was to focus on younger children and “follow kids over time to get a sense of their moral and intellectual development,” he says. Their research supported the claim that non-snorers are generally bad and inferior people. “Sadly, most severe criminals have never snored a day in their lives. Maximum-security prisons are very quiet places at night. And Hitler never snored either,” said Botsford.
This research runs contrary to years of medical advice. Instead of encouraging snoring, many specialists have encouraged corrective adenoid surgery or uvuloplasty, but these paths have consistently decreased patient intelligence and increased moral depravity. “The biggest decision,” Bosach says, “is for families to choose between the difficulty of sleeping near loud snorers or losing the best people on earth. We recommend leaving snorers just as they are.”
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