Snoring can keep you awake, ruin your sleep cycle and your daily rhythm, even harm your relationships. But more than being just an annoyance, snoring may bring about life-threatening consequences.
If you’ve ever awakened yourself with a sudden snore — or if your partner nudges you awake to get you to turn over — it’s possible you could be affected by sleep apnea, which is associated with high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure.
Sleep Apnea not just a fancy name for snoring?
Not at all. Snoring is that annoying sound that occurs when air passes relaxed tissues in your throat as you sleep. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly starts and stops during sleep.
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but many who have sleep apnea do snore regularly — and loudly. One in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea; it afflicts more men than women.
The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which weight on the upper chest and neck contributes to blocking the flow of air. A less-common type, central sleep apnea (CSA), occurs when the brain fails to send regular signals to the diaphragm to contract and expand. CSA has been associated with brain stem stroke.
What are the signs?
Aside from loud snoring and sudden stopped breathing or gasping for air during sleep (observed by someone else, obviously), symptoms may seem similar to those of any sleep disorder:
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleepiness
- Irritability or trouble paying attention while awake
How is it treated?
For moderate to severe cases, your doctor may recommend devices or treatments — or even surgery to help open the airway.
Common therapies include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which a machine delivers constant air pressure through a mask into the nose or mouth, or a mouthpiece that is designed to keep a person’s throat open.
If you have a mild case and you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes, such as:
- Get regular physical activity, but don’t do it right before bed because that gets your adrenaline pumping and can keep you awake.
- Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men; too much alcohol interferes with sleep.
- Avoid caffeine before bed.
- Develop a pre-bedtime routine such as taking a warm bath, dimming the lights or having some herbal tea.
The information above contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.