Monday, June 1, 2015

Believe it or not, snoring can actually kill you

We all know how annoying it can be if we are trying to sleep in the same room with someone that snores but did you know that snoring could be an indication of a serious health problem? OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) is one possible cause of snoring and it can affect our health in a variety of ways.

This disorder actually interferes with one’s breathing during sleep and breathing can actually stop for as long as 30 seconds at a time causing the oxygen levels in the body to reach critically low levels. When this occurs the person is awakened by the unconscious brain so that normal breathing will resume. A person with this disorder isn’t even aware of what is happening and only knows that they often wake up at night for no apparent reason. This can happen many times in the course of one night and people over the age of 35 are at higher risk of developing this condition. Curiously it has recently been discovered that up to 33% of diabetics suffer from this disorder although the reasons why are 
not yet completely understood.

So does anyone actually die as a result of this disorder? Well, yes and no. Although OSA is in itself not a direct cause of death, it can lead to a multitude of long term health problems including possible heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and irregular heartbeat. And like any other type of sleep disorder, who can say how many accidents occur due to drowsiness when driving a vehicle, working with machinery, etc? All of these problems become possible due to the lack of oxygen that results from having OSA. Currently over 18 million Americans suffer from this type of sleep apnea.

There are different types of treatments available for those persons that suffer from this type of illness but unfortunately many health insurance plans do not cover OSA and the high cost of medical care is a problem for many people. One type of treatment available is what is known as a CPAP machine. This device is effective but not very convenient for the person using it. Simply stated it is a type of “breathing machine” that forces air into the lungs of the user ensuring that they don’t suffer from a low oxygen level during sleep. Although quite effective it’s not very easy for most people to get comfortable when wearing pipes that cover the mouth and nose.  

Surgery is another alternative for those persons that suffer from OSA, but again cost may be an issue. Currently there are many types of “devices” available on the market that promise to reduce or eliminate snoring in OSA sufferers including a new type of chinstrap. The claim by the manufacturer is that the chinstrap prevents the tongue and throat muscles from blocking airflow during sleep. One such device has actually been recommended by somnologists (sleep doctors) as a possible aid for patients with this type of disorder.

The biggest problem with Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the fact that many people are not aware that they have it and don’t seek medical treatment as a result. Although everyone that snores does not have OSA the truth is that 18 million Americans do. If you feel tired in the morning and receive complaints from your partner that your snoring keeps them awake, you might want to see a doctor. OSA is quite common and affects many people that are completely unaware that they have this problem. Snoring may be funny in the movies but in real life it is no joke.

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