Do you sleep well?

Do you sleep well?

high risk

Do you sleep well?

Snoring is not a condition, but a symptom. It suggests that there is a block somewhere in the breathing passage. Even though it is more common in men over 40, women and children experience it too.  In most cases, it tends to worsen with age and weight gain.

When we sleep, the soft tissues surrounding our breathing passage relax. This narrows the airway, causing turbulence and vibrations. These vibrations are what is heard as snoring.

While 25-45% of the world snores, those around these people are also affected by the problem. More than 30% of snorers have a severe medical condition called sleep apnoea. This can increase the risk of many life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure and heart attack.

What is sleep apnoea?

It is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. The airway repeatedly becomes blocked, limiting the amount of air that reaches your lungs. When this happens, you may snore loudly or make choking noises as you try to breathe. Your brain and body become oxygen deprived and you may wake up multiple times through the night.

Snoring is likely to be a sign of sleep apnoea when it is followed by silent pauses in breathing and choking or gasping sounds.

People with sleep apnoea often experience sleepiness or fatigue during the day. Common symptoms include:

Loud or frequent snoring
Silent pauses in breathing
Choking or gasping sounds
Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
Disturbed sleep
Morning headaches
Nocturia (waking up during the night to go to the bathroom)
Difficulty concentrating
Irritability and memory loss
Decreased sexual desire

Why is it important ?

Apart from social problems, many patients of sleep apnoea experience poor quality of sleep. This worsens their performance and mood during the day. Patients with longstanding obstructive sleep apnoea may have visited physicians for other medical problems.

Even young adults with no risk factors or medical problems, when affected by sleep apnoea, may be at risk for high blood pressure, mood disorders, coronary artery disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, heart attack, atrial fibrillation and type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors?

Obesity:Your risk for sleep apnoea is higher if you are overweight or have a sedentary lifestyle.

Large neck size: A large neck has more soft tissue that can block your airway during sleep.

Structure of airway: Some structural issues – like a large tongue or a bulky soft palate – may cause the tongue to collapse into the airway.

Other medical conditions: Allergies, large tonsils, deviation in nasal septum.

Polysomnography is a non-invasive, overnight exam that allows doctors to monitor you while you sleep. It measures your oxygen levels, heart and breathing rates, snoring, and body movements etc.

Flexible airway examination is another  simple procedure in which a thin, flexible camera is passed through your nostril, allowing the doctor to see the space along various parts of your airway, including nose, nasopharynx, retro palatal space, oropharynx, and larynx.


Simple lifestyle changes may work:

Losing weight can reduce fatty tissues in the back of the throat.
Regular exercising tones the muscles in your throat, which in turn can lead to less snoring.

Sleeping on your side, instead of on your back, prevents floppy tissue from collapsing and blocking the passage.

Having a light dinner helps you get better sleep and reduces snoring.
Drink plenty of fluids through the day, particularly if your snoring is caused by a stuffy nose. Secretions from the nasal passages and soft palate can get gummier when you don’t drink enough water, which can lead to more snoring.

Avoiding alcohol or sedatives before bed this can prevent loose muscles from excessive relaxation and collapsing into the airway.

Quitting smoking decreases the irritation of  membranes in the nose and throat which can block airways

 Occasional snoring is not very serious.  Medical assistance is often needed for habitual snorers (and their loved ones) to get a good night's sleep.

(The author is consultant, Dept of Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT), Sakra World Hospital)

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