Snoring can be a nuisance to people around you especially if you share the same bed. But what may seem like a mere inconvenience to others can be a sign of a more serious underlying health issue.
Image Source: Shutterstock, 9nong
Have you been feeling tired all day lately? Have you been waking up in the middle of the night? Have people told you that you’re a huge snorer? If your answer is yes to all three questions, you might have a condition called sleep apnea. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This means your breathing is interrupted and repeatedly starts and stops due to blocked airflow. Snoring is a prominent sign of sleep apnea and simply shows that you can't move air freely through your nose and throat.
Breath pauses caused by sleep apnea can last 10-20 seconds and can happen anywhere from a few to hundreds of times a night. Imagine how much oxygen a person with chronic sleep apnea are deprived of! When sleep apnea becomes chronic, it can be linked to several illnesses like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Sleep apnea and heart disease
You might be wondering how snoring can cause something as serious as heart disease. Temporary breathing pauses from sleep apnea can cause your body to release stress hormones. At high levels, stress hormones may contribute to high blood pressure, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, the reduced oxygen due to airflow blocks can also affect your heart health negatively. The drop of oxygen causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, causing repetitive fluctuations that may lead to hypertension, which increases the risk for heart disease.
To make things worse, sleep apnea goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation as waking up gasping for air multiple times per night can affect your quality, length of sleep and consequently your heart health. According to a study, patients with hard-to-control high blood pressure and sleep apnea saw a drop in blood pressure when their sleep apnea was treated.
Signs of sleep apnea
Although snoring is associated with sleep apnea, not everyone who snores has the condition and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. But if your snoring is coupled with any of the following signs, there may a high possibility that you’re is suffering from sleep apnea:
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Interrupted sleep
- Finding it hard to pay attention
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic fatigue
Who is at risk?
Did you know that sleep apnea affects men more than women? However, sleep apnea still affects a whopping 17% of women and yet it is more likely to go undiagnosed in women! About 80% of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed.
Although anyone can have sleep apnea, people who are at a higher risk are:
- People with congestive heart failure
- People who drink alcohol
- People with high blood pressure
- Menopausal women
- Obese individuals
Tackling sleep apnea
If you think you might have sleep apnea then consult your doctor. Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes such as weight loss or performing certain throat exercises. Other solutions include surgery or using positive airway pressure (PAP) devices that keep the airway open during sleep.
If you’re familiar with heavy snorers in your household - remember to check up on them! Along with potentially saving them any future health complications, you might save yourself more peaceful nights at home!