Remember the adage, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep alone.”
Snoring is certainly an irritation to those who have to listen to it, and it’s not just men who do it. Women snore too, but men snore more than women: Four out of every 10 men snore, compared to roughly three out of ten women. At any particular time, around 25 percent of people are habitual snorers.
Anyone who has been told they snore loudly needs to know that their snoring is not only an irritation to others; it may be a sign of a potentially serious condition called sleep apnea.
The characteristic symptom of sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness. Additional symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps), restless sleep, falling asleep during the day, morning headaches, trouble concentrating, irritability, forgetfulness, mood or behavior changes, anxiety and depression.
Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious condition. An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. Most people don’t know they have it. More than half the people who have it are overweight, and most snore heavily. Sleep apnea is not age-specific; it affects individuals of every age, including children.
Both men and women develop sleep apnea, although it is more common in men than women, especially middle-aged men who are overweight. Part of this is believed to be due to the fact that men have a thicker neck circumference than women.
People with a family history of sleep apnea are more likely to develop the condition.
The most common type of sleep apnea happens when breathing stops during sleep. Each pause in breathing lasts 10 to 20 seconds to as long as a minute. These pauses occur repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea partially awaken as they struggle to breathe, but in the morning they will not be aware of the disturbances in their sleep.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can be life threatening. It can increase one's chance of having high blood pressure, diabetes, a heart attack and stroke. It can also increase the risk of work-related or auto accidents due to excessive sleepiness.
Sleep apnea can be treated. If you experience symptoms of sleep apnea, or any other sleeping problems, see your healthcare provider. Your doctor will make an evaluation based on a physical exam and the signs and symptoms you share about your sleep. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep disorders center for special sleep tests.
The LMH Sleep Disorders Center specializes in diagnosing and treating people with sleep disorders. The center, located at LMH South, offers a home-like environment where patients can participate in an overnight test designed to find a solution to their problems. Sleep technicians assist LMH patients with the test. While sleeping, patients wear painless monitoring equipment examining oxygen levels, heart rate, body positioning, snoring, breathing, sleep stage and muscle movement. After that, the tests are interpreted by physicians. The LMH Sleep Disorders Center is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
For more information check out the LMH website at www.lmh.org/sleep.
— Janice Early is Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.