Did you know that snoring can kill?
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail

Most think snoring is quite natural. To breathe during sleep with a rough hoarse noise due to vibration of the uvula and the soft palate is snoring. Not everyone is afflicted with it – something more prevalent among the adult males as compared to the females of our species. Studies indicate that forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and it usually grows worse with age.

The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing.

People who snore may suffer from poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat. When muscles are too relaxed, either from alcohol or drugs that cause sleepiness, the tongue falls backwards into the airway or the throat muscles draw in from the sides into the airway. This can also happen during deep sleep.

There could be excessive bulkiness of throat tissue. Children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore. Overweight people have bulky neck tissue, too. Cysts or tumours can also cause bulk, but they are rare.

There could also be a long soft palate and/or uvula. A long palate narrows the opening from the nose into the throat. As it dangles, it acts as a noisy flutter valve during relaxed breathing. A long uvula makes matters even worse.

There could be obstructed nasal airways too. A stuffy or blocked nose requires extra effort to pull air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, and pulls together the floppy tissues of the throat, and snoring results. So, snoring often occurs only during the hay fever season or with a cold or sinus infection. Also, deformities of the nose or nasal septum, such as a deviated septum can cause such an obstruction.

Socially, snoring can be serious - when it makes the snorer an object of ridicule and causes others sleepless nights and resentfulness. Medically too it can be serious when it disturbs sleeping patterns and deprives the snorer of appropriate rest. When snoring is severe, it can cause serious, long-term health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea.

Recent studies throwing more light on the subject have found that when persons with sleep apnea fall asleep, their tongue falls back into their throat, blocking their airway. Like when a pillow is pressed against someone’s mouth, when air cannot flow in or out of the nose or mouth, oxygen is not taken in so carbon dioxide builds to dangerous levels in the blood. As they struggle for breath, their blood pressure soars, and this rise in blood pressure damages the inner walls of the carotid arteries lining the sides of the neck. Ending up with cholesterol and calcium sticking to the injury sites and amassing into calcified plaques, which block blood flow to the brain. The result often is a massive stroke.

Some other symptoms are: Limb jerking, punching and kicking during sleep; depression, reduction in motivation; hyperactivity; morning headaches, bloodshot eyes; multiple trips to the bathroom during sleep time, heartburn (acid reflux); waking up very tired (feeling exhausted) and thirsty; weight gain; irritability; memory problems, poor ability to concentrate, poor motor skills, daytime fatigue, excessive sleepiness during waking hours.

Like allergies, most people are not born with a snore; they simply acquire it over a period of time almost without exception, we sleep with our mouth closed. However, as we grow, some people develop the habit of sleeping with their mouth open. This bad habit allows the jaw to relax and drop excessively during sleep time. As a result, the skin, tissue and muscles in the throat and mouth area are stretched beyond their intended range for an extended length of time (several hours each night).

Unless deliberate corrective action is taken, this condition usually lasts for the lifetime of the person! In most cases, this sets the stage for snoring and the possible Development of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

There are hundreds of devices that claim to cure snoring. Some are variations on the old idea of sewing a sock that holds a tennis ball on the pajama back to force the snorer to sleep on his side. (Snoring is often worse when a person sleeps on his back). Some devices reposition the lower jaw forward; some open nasal air passages; a few others have been designed to condition a person not to snore by producing unpleasant stimuli when snoring occurs. But, if you snore, the truth is that it is not under your control whatsoever. If anti-snoring devices work, it is probably because they keep you awake.

Over the long term, OSA is associated with greater risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. In the US, the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that 38,000 cardiovascular deaths, due to sleep apnea, occur each year. However, OSA was not well understood or recognized by the medical community until recently, and only a fraction of OSA patients have been diagnosed and treated.

05.12.2006: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017. tel no: 0124-4111026, 2360568; on website www.maxwellpereira.com ; email:mfjpkamath@gmail.com

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