Don’t Be a Snore
Do your nocturnal noises interrupt your bed partner’s slumber? If so, it’s time to acknowledge that you’re a snorer—and a loud one at that.
Although it may be hard to admit, knowing that you snore is important information to have about yourself. Snoring is often just a nuisance, but if you’re sawing logs so loudly that it wakes others, it may be a sign of a serious health concern: sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
The word apnea means “without breath.” According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), more than 18 million American adults have it. The condition is linked to an increased risk for heart disease. People with sleep apnea may also be at greater risk for car accidents because of sleepiness. Problems with memory and mood changes are also common.
When you have sleep apnea, your breathing may stop for at least 10 seconds or more while you are sleeping. This usually occurs because the muscles in the throat relax and collapse, briefly blocking airflow. As a result, the amount of oxygen in your blood decreases. Breathing starts again with a loud snort or snore. This cycle can occur as often as 20 to 30 or more times an hour, making it impossible to get restful sleep.
Do you have it?
As you age, your risk for sleep apnea increases, the NSF says. People who are overweight are also more likely to develop the condition. But anyone can get it, even young children.
Although most people who snore don’t have this condition, you should talk with your health care provider if you have any of the following signs and symptoms:
Gasping for air or choking while sleeping
Feeling sleepy during the day, even while working or driving
Headaches in the morning
Trouble with memory or concentration
Feeling depressed, moody, or grouchy
What to do
Sleep apnea is treatable, and the first step is to find out whether you have the condition. Ask your partner to describe your sleep pattern and snoring. Often a person’s bed partner is the first to know there is a problem because his or her sleep has been affected. If your health care provider suspects sleep apnea, you may visit a sleep clinic, where experts can monitor your breathing and brain activity.
Treatment may be as simple as losing weight, cutting back on alcohol, or quitting smoking. Certain medications may affect the condition, so talk with your health care provider about any prescriptions or over-the-counter products you take.
Many people get better with the help of a continuous positive airway pressure device. You wear it while sleeping to help keep airways open. Other options include adjusting your sleep position with special pillows or using devices to help keep the airway open. Whatever you and your provider decide to try, treatment may help you feel more energetic and alert.