Snoring – A Silent Killer?

Snoring – A Silent Killer?

Why can snoring be dangerous?

Snoring brings about intense fluctuations of pressure inside the rib cage, which in some cases, can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. It could be shown that snorers suffer from various cardiovascular disorders, as myocardial infarction, stroke and high blood pressure, more often than non-snorers.

What is sleep apnea?

A lot of snorers show breathing cessations during sleep which can last for minutes and occur many times each night.

These apneas go along with a significant reduction of oxygen in the blood, leading to so-called ā€˜arousalsā€™ which are responsible for a disruption of the normal sleep profile (a healthy sleep profile is essential to the proper functioning of a range of mechanisms).

What are the major symptoms?

The persons affected are mostly overweight, snore and suffer from tiredness during daytime (ā€˜Excessive Daytime Sleepinessā€™).

What are the dangers of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea has a considerable impact not only on sleep quality, but also on the function of different organ systems, particularly the cardiovascular system. There is an increased risk for the following disorders:

  • High blood pressure
  • Myocardial infarction (Heart attack)
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Thrombosis
  • Stroke

The quality of life of the person affected by sleep apnea (and their partner) is impaired on a significant scale by:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Irritability
  • Disruptions to concentration
  • Headaches
  • Effects on the immune system
  • Impotence (erectile dysfunction)
  • Night sweating
  • Impaired daytime performance
  • Personality changes
  • Memory impairment
  • Depression
  • GERĀ (gastro-esophageal reflux, heartburn)
  • Other complications

The marked daytime sleepiness increases the risk of accidents (of particular relevance to motorists, pilots, machine operatorsā€¦), and a large proportion of the fatal accidents on motorways may be attributable to people falling asleep while driving.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

If some of the above mentioned symptoms apply to you and your bed partner realizes that you have apneas during sleep you should consult your GP.

If there is a patient support group available in your area you should contact it, they mostly have a broad knowledge of the disease and offer competent help in all issues related to sleep apnea.

In order to see whether you suffer from a sleep apnea you will be given an ambulatory monitoring (screening) device for home-use which measures some important parameters (painless):

  • Snoring
  • Respiratory movements of the rib cage and abdomen
  • Heart rate (number of beats per minute)
  • Body position
  • Oxygen (O2) saturation in the blood
  • Flow (airflow) at the mouth and nose

If the results confirm a possible sleep apnea you will be submitted to a sleep lab where your sleep profile is examined and a couple of additional parameters are measured.

How is sleep apnea treated?

In mild sleep apnea you might experience relief with weight reduction and by not taking alcohol or sedatives in the evenings.

The treatment with the highest success rate is based on the principle of pneumatic splinting of the neckā€™s soft tissues, as a result of which the upper airway narrowing is limited and patency is maintained. This treatment is calledĀ CPAPĀ meaning continuous positive airway pressure achieved by a device sucking room air through a filter and applying it with a preset pressure through a nasal mask, which the user wears at night.

CPAP-users often report a significant improvement in daytime sleepiness and wellbeing shortly after initiation of the treatment. Besides,Ā CPAPĀ has shown to improve the outcome of cardiovascular diseases in persons affected by sleep apnea.

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