Bust all snoring myths (Thinkstock Photos/ Getty Images)
Tired of being called names and listening to complaints from your partner because you snore at night?
But more than that, it is important to keep a check on your snoring as an excess of it can be an indicator of many diseases, one of them being sleep apnea, says Dr Kaushal Sheth, ENT surgeon, "People develop sleep apnea when their airway collapses partially or completely during sleep due to various medical conditions. This causes the oxygen levels in the blood to decrease and can be potentially life threatening when it becomes obstructive sleep apnea."
Elaborating on it further, Dr Jayashree Todkar, bariatric surgeon and obesity consultant says "Snoring is an indication of obstacles in a person's breathing. When excessive fat accumulates around the stomach, the lungs do not get ample space to expand when we inhale oxygen; this in turn leads to obstacles in the process of inhalation-exhalation."
However, there are many myths surrounding snoring which is a very common problem. To sleep better one must get rid of the myths that surround snoring and only accept the facts, says Dr Viranchi Oza, BDS as he gives us a lowdown of some stories around snoring:
Myth: Everybody snores, therefore it's normal. Fact: Snoring is not a normal condition. Labelling it as 'normal' diminishes the seriousness of the condition. Snoring is not just about annoying your partner, it is a sign that the body is struggling to breathe properly during the night. Snoring on a frequent or regular basis has been associated with hypertension and can also be an indication of sleep apnea (pauses in breathing). Sleep apnea sufferers have been reported to have diminished gray cells in their brains, most likely due to the oxygen deprivation of untreated sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea increases the risk of cardiovascular disease over time. In addition, insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity. As the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance of weight gain increases.
Myth: Snoring only affects the health of the snorer. Fact: Snoring doesn't just negatively affect the health of the person snoring, but also the health of the person lying next to them in bed. A typical snorer usually produces a noise that averages around 60 decibels (about the level of vacuum cleaner), but with some people this can reach 80 or even 90 decibels (about the level of an average factory). Sleeping with a partner who snores during the night has been shown to increase the blood pressure in the other person, which may be dangerous for their health in the long term. Snoring also causes the partner to have fragmented sleep and lose up to one hour of sleep
Myth: Snoring comes from the nose, so if I unclog my nose, my snoring will stop. Fact: Having a stuffy nose can definitely aggravate snoring and sleep apnea, but in it's not the cause. A recent study showed that undergoing nasal surgery for breathing problems cured sleep apnea in only 10% of patients. Snoring vibrations typically come from the soft palate, which is aggravated by having a small jaw and the tongue falling back. It's a complicated relationship between the nose, the soft palate and the tongue.
Myth: I know I don't snore, or have apnea. I am fine. Fact: Don't ignore your wife when she tells you that your snoring doesn't let her sleep. When a partner snores it is very difficult for the spouse to sleep. There are people who snore excessively and suffer from sleep apnea, but feel absolutely normal. However, snoring increases their risk of getting a heart attack and stroke. The only definitive way to prove that you don't have sleep apnea is by taking a sleep test. Screening questionnaires like the GASP or the Epworth have shown high reliability in identifying patient risk for sleep apnea.
Myth: If I lose weight, I'll cure myself of sleep apnea. Fact: Sometimes. It's definitely worth trying, but in general, it's very difficult to lose weight if you have sleep apnea. This is because poor sleep aggravates weight gain by increasing your appetite. Once you're sleeping better, it'll be easier to lose weight. This is the one ingredient with many dietary and weight loss programs that's missing or not stressed at all. It's not enough just to tell people to sleep more.
Myth: Health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression have no relation to the amount and quality of a person's sleep. Fact: More and more scientific studies are showing a correlation between poor quality sleep and insufficient sleep with a variety of diseases. Blood pressure is variable during the sleep cycle, however, interrupted sleep negatively affects the normal variability. Recent studies have shown that nearly 80% cases of hypertension, 60% cases of strokes and 50% cases of heart failures are actually cases of undiagnosed sleep apnea. Research indicates that insufficient sleep impairs the body's ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes. Fragmented sleep can cause a lowered metabolism and increased levels of the hormone Cortisol which results in an increased appetite and a decrease in one's ability to burn calories.
Myth: Daytime sleepiness means a person is not getting enough sleep. Fact: Do you feel very sleepy even during the day despite the fact that you had a long night of proper sleep? Excessive daytime sleepiness can occur even after a person gets enough sleep. Such sleepiness can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea. Please seek professional medical advice to correctly diagnose the cause of this symptom.
Myth: Getting just one hour less sleep per night than needed will not have any effect on your daytime functioning. Fact: This lack of sleep may not make you noticeably sleepy during the day. But even if you've got slightly less sleep, it can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly. It can compromise your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as the ability to fight infections, particularly if the pattern continues. Lack of sleep has also been associated with road accidents (up to 60% of road accidents involve lack of sleep) and air crashes (Air India Mangalore plane crash in 2010 was due to lack of sleep). Sleeping for less than six hours a night is equivalent to legal levels of alcohol intoxication.
Myth: Sleep apnea occurs only in older, overweight men with big necks. Fact: Although the stereotypical description does fit people in the extreme end of the spectrum, we now know that even young, thin women that don't snore can have significant obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea begins with jaw structure narrowing and later involves obesity. It's estimated that 90% of women with this condition are not diagnosed. Untreated, it can cause or aggravate weight gain, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Myth: Snoring can't be treated. Fact: Have you given up on your snoring thinking that it cannot be treated? There are many different options for treating snoring.
Some treatment options are rather drastic, possibly requiring surgery or prescription drugs, but prior to exploring such options it would be wise to first seek out alternative treatments. You must visit a sleep specialist to get the right diagnosis.
Myth: Extra sleep at night can cure you of problems with excessive daytime fatigue. Fact: Not only is the quantity of sleep important but also the quality of sleep. Some people sleep eight-nine hours a night but don't feel well rested as the quality of their sleep is poor. A number of sleep disorders and other medical conditions affect the quality of sleep. Sleeping more won't alleviate the daytime sleepiness these disorders or conditions cause. However, many of these disorders or conditions can be treated effectively with changes in behaviour or with medical therapies.
Myth: Insomnia is characterised only by difficulty in falling asleep. Fact: There are four symptoms usually associated with insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep
- Frequent awakenings
- Waking up feeling tired and not so fresh
Insomnia can also be a symptom of a sleep disorder or other medical, psychological or psychiatric problems. Sometimes, insomnia can really be a case of undiagnosed sleep apnea.