THE PROBLEM | SNORING

Snoring as a Medical Condition

Snoring is a medical condition that doesn’t just affect one’s health but can also strain relationships.

Let’s take a look at snoring first. Snoring is the sound of partially obstructed breathing when we sleep. During sleep, the brain sends the signal to all the muscles of the body (except the breathing muscles) to relax. Unfortunately, because of the loss of muscle tone, the tongue, palate, and throat can collapse when they relax. This can cause the airway to narrow and worsen snoring. Additionally, when we are asleep, we are usually (though not always) lying down. Gravity pulls the palate, tonsils, and tongue backwards. This often narrows the airway enough to cause instability in airflow, tissue vibration, and thus snoring occurs. Snorers often receive an elbow jab in the ribs from someone else as a reminder to “roll over and stop.” People are upset that they have partners that not only snore but are unwilling do anything about it. Upset partners are not inclined to be very romantic.

Silence is golden. But for spouses of snorers, it also may feel unattainable. In fact, the non-snoring partner may wake multiple times an hour and lose an average of two hours of sleep each night — even if they don’t remember waking. Researchers who have studied this issue have labeled it Spousal Arousal Syndrome (SAS). Lack of sleep due to SAS can cause daytime fatigue and irritability, weight gain, higher blood pressure and memory issues. Additionally, the non-snoring partner also has an increased propensity for accidents or illness and many other problems associated with sleep deprivation. Furthermore, they may struggle with low self-esteem and have a decreased interest in sex. Snoring also can affect the overall happiness of the marriage. In fact, most couples who deal with snoring on a regular basis have argued over the nighttime noise and some reports indicate that as many as 80 percent of them sleep apart on a regular basis.

Besides the grouchiness that comes with the lack of sleep, couples often argue about the severity of the snoring. Most often, this is because snoring partners don’t realize how bad their snoring truly is. For this reason, many experts recommend that non-snoring partner’s video record their partners so they can see just how bad the noise can be. But there is hope for struggling couples. A study conducted by the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland found that heavy snorers with sleep apnea who underwent treatment reported better sex lives and improved relationships. As a result, the first step then is to get snoring partners to realize they have a problem. Get professional input on the snoring issue especially if the snoring partner is gasping for breath, making choking or snorting sounds, or appears to stop breathing. These characteristics could be signs of a serious sleep disorder that requires medical treatment.

Second hand snoring is real and affects your loved ones. It is conservatively estimated by the Mayo Clinic that people sleeping with snorers lose over one hour of sleep every night. Studies indicate that even children are affected with signs of sleep deprivation if they sleep in a bedroom next to the snorer.

Over the last few years the subject of snoring and sleep apnea has become one of the “hottest” medical areas of concern. Literally every month new studies and medical papers are being published. Television segments on all the major news stations appear on a regular basis.

It has been known for many years that sleep apnea (OSA), has been linked to cardiovascular disease, along with a host of other serious health issues. But these risks for heart disease may actually begin with snoring, long before it becomes sleep apnea.

Recently, Fox News broke a story on an extensive study conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The findings were presented at the 2013 Combined Sections Meeting of the Triological Society in Scottsdale, Arizona. The bottom line…basic snoring, not diagnosed sleep apnea, can be an early warning sign for heart disease. This study put snorers in the same categories as people who are overweight, who smoke, or have high cholesterol for potential heart disease. The study concluded that snoring is tied to increased thickening of the lining of the two large blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygenated blood. Thickening of the blood vessels ultimately can lead to hardening of the arteries responsible for many vascular and heart diseases. The study goes on to reveal changes in the carotid artery with snorers – even for those without sleep apnea – likely due to the trauma and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring.

“Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it shouldn’t be ignored. Patients need to seek treatment in the same way they would if they had sleep apnea, high blood pressure or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” said Robert Deeb, otolaryngologist at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, the journal The Laryngoscope reports. “Our study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that isolated snoring may not be as benign as first suspected. So instead of kicking your snoring bed partner out of the room or spending sleepless nights elbowing them, seek out medical treatment for the snorer,” added Deed, according to a Henry Ford statement.

Finally, don’t try to ignore snoring. We will work with you to find a healthy solution. Even if you aren’t the one snoring, you both are affected.

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