August 23, 2004
Do you snore? Do you
know someone who does?
"Snoring is a fairly
common problem that can happen to anyone - young or old. Snoring
happens when a person can't move air freely through his or her
nose and mouth during sleep. That annoying sound is caused by
certain structures in the mouth and throat - the tongue, upper
throat, soft palate (say: pa-lut), uvula (say: yoo-vyuh-luh),
as well as big tonsils and adenoids - vibrating against each other.
People usually find out they snore from the people who live with
them. Kids may find out they snore from a brother or sister or
from a friend who sleeps over. Snoring keeps other people awake
and probably doesn't let the snoring person get top quality rest,
Just because it's common,
doesn't mean it's "No big deal."
"Myth: Snoring is
a common problem, especially among men, but it isn't harmful.
Fact: Although snoring may be harmless for most people, it can
be a symptom of a life threatening sleep disorder called sleep
apnea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness.
Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing that prevent
air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person's airways. People
with sleep apnea awaken frequently during the night gasping for
breath. The breathing pauses reduce blood oxygen levels, can strain
the heart and cardiovascular system, and increase the risk of
cardiovascular disease. Snoring on a frequent or regular basis
has been directly associated with hypertension. Obesity and a
large neck can contribute to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be treated;
men and women who snore loudly, especially if pauses in the snoring
are noted, should consult a physician."
Men and women, young
and old, are all affected. But why?
Why do people snore?
"There are many
reasons why people snore. Here are some of the most common: Seasonal
allergies ... Blocked nasal passages or airways... A deviated
septum (say: dee-vee-ate-ed sep-tum) ... Enlarged or swollen tonsils
or adenoids ... Drinking alcohol ... Being overweight ... Snoring
is also one symptom of a serious sleep disorder known as sleep
apnea. When a person has sleep apnea, his or her breathing is
irregular during sleep. Typically, a person with sleep apnea will
actually stop breathing for short amounts of time 30 to 300 times
a night! It can be a big problem if the person doesn't get enough
Are you getting a good
"Many people think
that they have slept well and yet they fall asleep in front of
the TV or doze behind the wheel. Those with untreated sleep apnea
are up to seven times greater risk of traffic or work-related
accidents due to daytime sleepiness."
Does being tired during
the day really mean that there is problem? Aren't all teenagers
tired? You fall asleep each night only to be jolted to life again
in the morning by the shrill of your alarm (or maybe by a parent
or sibling who was awakened by your alarm before you noticed it).
You don't ever remember being awakened by an inability to breathe,
and you haven't ever heard yourself snore. Is it possible to sleep
through your own problem?
"How do you know
if you have sleep apnoea? That's the trouble - most people with
this problem don't realise it. It's more likely to be the person's
partner or someone in the same household who's more aware, not
only of the snoring, but also of the drowsiness during the day.
because snoring and drowsiness don't seem like important symptoms,
many people don't bother to see their GP, says Professor Colin
Sullivan of the Centre for Respiratory Failure and Sleep Disorders
at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. 'But it's not a trivial problem,'
he adds, 'It should be taken seriously.'"
But how do you bring
a sleep problem in for the doctor to examine? It's not like a
broken leg that the doctor can see. What do you know about your
sleep habits? What information would you have that would help
your doctor help you?
"Two-thirds of Americans
have sleep problems. What most people don't realize, however,
is that many sleep problems can be solved. A good place to start
is to record your sleep habits and experiences in the National
Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary. Completing this diary will help
you identify patterns or conditions that might be interfering
with your ability to get a good night's sleep."
The good news "is
that many sleep problems can be solved."
"Some people need
to lose weight, change their diets, or develop regular sleeping
patterns to stop snoring. It may be helpful to remove allergy
triggers (stuffed animals, pets, and feather/down pillows and
comforters) from the person's bedroom. The doctor might also suggest
medications for allergies or congestion due to a cold. If a doctor
suspects a person has sleep apnea, he or she will monitor the
patient while they sleep."
Is a visit to the doctor
really necessary? What about an "over the counter" remedy?
"Many snoring sufferers
turn to over-the-counter solutions to try to get a good night's
sleep. Well a new study looked at three of the most popular anti-snoring
aids to see if they can help stop those noisy nightly symphonies.
Researchers evaluated three top products promoted to prevent snoring
- a pillow, an herbal spray and a nasal strip. Each claims in
ads and on web sites that their product prevents or reduces snoring.
During the sleep lab study, patients were wired to monitoring
equipment before they slept. Over the next week, they rotated
products, using an anti-snoring pillow for the first night, then
nothing the second, then the spray the third night, etc. Snoring
levels where charted to see if there was any effect. Stanford
sleep specialist, Dr. Pelayo, regularly evaluates sleep studies,
and says the conclusions were clear. Dr. Pelayo: 'They found that
none of the devices worked, that everybody snored just about the
same before and after.'"
Questions of the Week:
Do you snore? Do you know someone who snores? What can people
do on their own to improve the problem? What doesn't work? How
can people who snore know if it is a problem that requires more
serious attention? How can the doctor help? What information should
people know about their snoring so that they can have informed
conversations with their doctors? What lifestyle changes can a
snorer expect to make in order to move toward being an ex-snorer?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum