That night-time snoring habit of yours might be more damaging to your health than you might think (and we’re not just referring to the sex ban likely to be imposed by your girlfriend). Today marks the start of Stop Snoring Week 2009, so what better excuse to tackle your irritating sleeping habits head-on.
Telling her to buy earplugs probably won’t work. If you’re a chronic snorer, not only will you be turning your other half into a sleep-deprived harpy, but you could also be setting yourself up for halitosis, headaches and even more. Research by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association found that snorers were more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol than their silent-sleeping counterparts. “Blood pressure rises on every snore and then returns to normal but if this continues over many years blood pressure will remain high,” explains Marianne Davey, director of the BSSAA. “Snorers are at greater risk of health conditions because the effort of snoring puts undue pressure on the heart, lungs and thorax.” Your relationship is also likely to start showing the strain – up to 97% of those who share a bed with a snorer complain of chronic sleep deprivation. That’s a lot of brownie points lost, and you’re not even conscious.
Snoring occurs when the soft tissue inside your nose, mouth and throat are disturbed by turbulence when you breathe in – usually because of a small blockage anywhere from your nostrils to your vocal cords. Because you’re more relaxed when you’re out for the count, this tissue vibrates – causing your unconscious chainsaw impression.
So how do you stop yourself from snoring and get a restful (and silent) night’s kip? Firstly, you need to work out which part of your airway is causing the vibration – you can then find a treatment that works for you. There are three different ‘types’ of snoring – nasal, mouth breathing and tongue based. “For example, nasal dilators will not be a suitable treatment for somebody with a ‘tongue base’ snoring problem,” explains Davey. “Any product that is ‘guaranteed’ is not worth touching as there is absolutely no treatment for snoring that can be guaranteed to work.” Go to www.britishsnoring.co.uk to test your snoring type.
In these troubled financial times, even the most chilled out of characters is feeling the pressure just a tad. You might think that your daily stress has been well and truly busted by your gargantuan efforts on the Smith machine, but anxiety can be released through other, less conscious means. If you suffer from headaches, pain in the jaw or your teeth appear damaged, you could be suffering from bruxism (teeth grinding to the non-dentists amongst you).
Although it mainly affects those suffering from stress or anxiety, it can also be a reaction to pain medication. “Bruxism occurs during the arousal phase of our sleep cycle and is strongly associated with other sleep disorders such as snoring, sleep apnoea and sleep talking, violent or injurious behaviour,” says Davey. “The main problem is damage to the teeth and jaw due to constant grinding. However, if the bruxism is caused by anxiety or stress there may be various other factors involved that need investigating.” If you think you could be a tooth grinder on the quiet, have a chat with your dentist – mouth guards are available to save your pearly whites from unconscious harm.
It might sound like the name of the latest flash-in-the-pan indie band to grace the airwaves, but sleep apnoea is a condition affecting thousands across the UK – and about 90% are completely unaware about their nocturnal condition. Obstructive sleep apnoea (or OSA) is the cessation of airflow to your lungs while you sleep – in effect, a lack of muscle tone in your neck leads to your airway collapsing. Your brain will automatically wake you up with a snore or snort to get you breathing again, but you may not remember this – instead, you’ll feel the effects in the morning, with sufferers experiencing a whole range of symptoms including Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), morning headaches, irritability, a short temper, forgetfulness, changes in mood and behaviour, anxiety, depression, and even a decreased interest in sex.
OSA is most likely to affect middle-aged, overweight males with a collar size of 16.5″ or more (although if you’ve got a body-builders physique you may also be at risk). About 4% of middle-aged men will have sleep apnoea although they may not know it. Like snoring, the long-term health implications are serious, with hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes all on the cards if it isn’t treated. Luckily, treatment isn’t as hard to come by as you may think. “The ‘Gold Standard’ treatment for OSA is the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) machine that blows room air at a positive pressure into the airway to stop the airway from collapsing (causing the apnoeas) and give the patient a whole night’s refreshing sleep,” explains Davey. If you don’t fancy going to bed looking like a fighter pilot, however, there are other options available to free up your airway. “An MAD (Mandibular Advancement Device) that goes into the mouth and brings the lower jaw forward is also recommended,” says Davey. “The device provides a bigger space at the back of the throat to allow the air to flow down into the lungs without it vibrating all the structures in the upper airway.”
For more information on how you can get a better night’s sleep, go to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea website: www.britishsnoring.co.uk