5 Surprising Consequences Linked To Snoring
Did you know that snoring is linked to some serious health hazards and to a few that may surprise you. Whether you're having trouble staying awake at work or find yourself in line for a triple shot of espresso just to make it through the day, you're not alone. Sleep issues affect millions of Americans, and one of the most misunderstood is how serious snoring can be. Far from being an embarrassment or something you put up with from a partner, snoring is not a sign of deep sleep, but it very well could be one sign of a potential sleep issue that could lead to these 5 surprising consequences:
1. Low Testosterone and Erectile Dysfunction - Did I get your attention? I was surprised to learn this from Dr. Tony Masri at the Sleep Disorders program at El Camino Hospital, however men who were treated for their sleep issues with CPAP, had improvement in sexual function and testosterone levels.
2. Car accidents – It’s estimated that drowsiness plays a role in over 100,000 auto accidents each year, leading to over 1500 deaths and 40,000 serious injuries.
3. Serious cardiac events including irregular heart rhythms and atrial fibrillation and heart attack. For people who have obstructive sleep apnea for 4 years, there’s a 30% increased risk of having a heart attack.
4. An increase in seizure activity – People with epilepsy are more likely to experience a recurrence of seizures when obstructive sleep apnea and snoring is present, regardless of whether they’re on anti-seizure medication or not.
5. When it comes to stroke, the risk is increased by 60% for people with obstructive sleep apnea. This may be associated with the cardiac events that are linked to sleep apnea.
The Nitty Gritty on Snoring and Sleep Apnea
What is snoring? Basically snoring is the sound that occurs when our air passages narrow and each breath encounters obstacles that produce more noise. A clear, open airway is quiet, however one where there’s narrowing, swelling or a tongue in the way makes more sonorous noise.
You’ve probably noticed that drinking alcohol can lead to snoring. That’s because the airway tends to swell and the air passages narrow. You may have also noticed that some people only snore on their back, when the relaxation of the tongue partially blocks the back of the throat.
When someone snores, they may be experiencing intervals when they have pauses in their breathing, which is known as sleep apnea, (the absence of breathing when sleeping). The pauses may be long or short and occur occasionally or throughout the night. As people age and as they gain wait, sleep apnea becomes more common. If you are concerned about sleep apnea in yourself or a family, it’s important to be evaluated by your health care provider.
There are 2 types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – this occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep and the person’s airway becomes blocked or obstructed by the back of the tongue and/or the soft palate. This is by far the most common type of sleep apnea and is more likely if a person is snoring.
Central Sleep Apnea – this occurs from a disturbance in how our brains control our breathing. This is much less common than obstructive sleep apnea and can occur without the presence of snoring.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
You’ll feel better and be more efficient – depriving someone of a good night’s sleep is the first step in torture techniques. People become disoriented, forgetful, anxious and irritable. They have trouble concentrating and doing tasks. Getting a good night’s sleep improves mood, relationships and efficiency.
With over 40 million Americans suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea and snoring, if you’re feeling tired and can’t sleep, you’re not alone. Sleep issues are all too common; it’s estimated that only 5% of people with a sleep issue are being properly evaluated and diagnosed. What’s worse, is that many people who have a sleep study, are simply handed a CPAP machine and not instructed on how to use it, other ways to improve their sleep quality naturally and don’t have other medical issues addressed. Many people have been struggling with a CPAP machine on their own and still not sleeping. The good news is that there have been many improvements with CPAP, so don't give up.
• If you have a CPAP machine and aren't using it, then dust it off and bring it to the sleep clinic. There are new comfort features that will help you sleep more comfortably. As Dr. Masri says, " As long as you try to use it, I'll work with you to make sure you're comfortable."
Because of the potentially lethal consequences associated with sleep apnea and snoring, it’s important to get the information you need to set up the sleep routines that will work for you. Finding the right sleep disorders clinic is a good first step.
Look for a sleep clinic that offers:
• A complete medical evaluation prior to the sleep study, asks about all of your medications, routines, and the things that can be overlooked, such as something as simple as whether you sleep with a pet or if you have an overbite or smaller jaw. Understanding all aspects of what could be interfering with your sleep is just as important as ordering a sleep study.
• A sleep program that will individualize your treatment to help you with your goals. A 20 year old with sleep issues is different than a 55 year old.
• Not all sleep issues are related to snoring, so finding a sleep center that also can help with insomnia, restless leg, frequent waking for other issues is essential so that you can zero in on the issues and provide the appropriate treatment.
• A restful place, quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and won’t feel as if you’re in a lab with people staring at you all night.
• A knowledgeable staff that can answer your questions, instruct you in how to use the recommended treatments and follow up with you after the sleep study is over.
Luckily, I can refer my patients to the Sleep Disorders Program at El Camino Hospital. Led by Stanford-trained medical director, Dr. Tony Masri, this program provides comprehensive evaluation and treatment.
One of the other aspects that I like is that people don’t need a physician referral to be evaluated; they can call for themselves or a family member if they are concerned. For more information, visit El Camino Hospital's Sleep Disorders Program page.
Disclosure: I am working with El Camino Hospital to help spread the word about all the life-saving services available to people not only here in Silicon Valley but around the globe.