We’ve all been woken up or been kept awake by people who snore. Snoring during sleep is a fact of life: it happens and to most people it is annoying. But how many of us have actually thought of snoring as a potentially fatal condition?
Studies have shown that snoring is often times linked with a life-threatening condition called sleep apnea. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea happens when people stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. This stoppage in breathing can last for as long as 30 seconds. And when the brain realizes that it needs air, it sends panic signals to the body to wake it up. The Mayo Clinic website has a great video that demonstrates how this happens.
A researcher at Yale says this midnight arousal takes its toll on the body’s nervous system. He even compares it to being woken up at night because a “saber-toothed tiger was chasing you.” And for some people, this arousal can happen up to 30 times an hour. That doesn’t allow for a very worthwhile night’s sleep, which is partly why the effects from sleep apnea can be fatal.
The effects from sleep apnea can be very serious. Because the heart gets over-worked during the night, people with sleep apnea are more prone to have heart attacks and strokes than ordinary people.
Who is most at risk for sleep apnea
A study by a researcher at the
Many websites will tell you that the demographic that is most at risk for sleep apnea is overweight men over the age of 40. But they aren’t the only people that can be affected by this condition. In fact, children and young adults can also be at-risk. If children have over-sized tonsils or adenoids, this can severely block their airway during sleep.
If sleep apnea is gone untreated in children it can lead to many problems. Children can have learning problems, developmental problems, and even a failure to grow. This is on top of the heart problems that it poses for older people with the disorder.
An article in The Post-Standard a couple of months ago talked about how children were becoming heavier. The study said that more and more overweight children are developing diseases and conditions that are normally seen in adults. It cited sleep apnea as one of the conditions that has seen an increase because of overweight children.
Treatments for sleep apnea
Most of the treatments for sleep apnea are quite significant. One of the most common forms of treatment is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure mask, or CPAP. This mask fits over a person’s nose and mouth and forces air down that person’s throat while they are asleep. Because the air-pressure is continuous, it doesn’t allow for the person’s breathing to get obstructed. A lot of people do not like to wear the mask because it limits their mobility in bed. And depending on how bad one’s apnea is, the air pressure can be quite strong and overpowering. This video on WebMD shows how a subject obtained a CPAP, and how it changed his life.
Other treatments include various types of surgery. Such as: a tonsillectomy if the person’s tonsils are deemed to be oversized by their doctor; nasal surgery to repair a deviated septum, clearing the nose to breathe freely; as well as numerous other surgeries.
There are some over-the-counter aids that have helped some people with less-severe forms of sleep apnea. Many people have noticed that professional athletes wear nasal strips to help them breathe better during the game. These nasal strips have also been known to assist in lowering snoring levels.
There have been many famous people to have had sleep apnea. Reggie White is considered by many to be the best defensive lineman to ever play in the NFL. He had sleep apnea and chose not to wear his CPAP. In 2004, he died from a massive heart attack, and the doctors said his sleep apnea played a major role in his death. White helped lead the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title in 1996. And he is also a Hall of Famer.
Other people living with sleep apnea are: Rosie O’Donnell (actress/ talk-show host), William Shatner(actor), Jerry Garcia (actor), Mark Calaveccia (golfer).
Not all snoring is apnea
It must be noted that not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. It is believed by many doctors that between 30 and 50 percent of the population will snore at least once. This can be caused by a variety of reasons.
One reason why people snore and do not necessarily have apnea may be because they drank alcohol before going to bed. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the back of the throat and that can sometimes cause temporary apnea bursts. Another cause of snoring can be to due to congestion in the nose. If a person has a cold and cannot breathe properly out of their nose, then they’d have to breathe through their mouth. This could create vibrations in the throat causing snoring episodes. If a person tends to sleep on his or her back, it could lead to snoring. To learn more about ways to better your sleep, check out some tips at WebMD.
While not all snoring cases are cause for alarm, friends and family members should use their best judgment in spotting potential sleep apnea cases. If someone’s snoring can consistently be heard throughout the house, it is probably something that should be checked out by a Sleep Doctor. Spotting sleep apnea early will greatly reduce the risk for heart problems and other issues associated with the condition.