Stopping snoring improves lifestyle and prevents heart problems

Making sure you get plenty of undisturbed sleep could increase the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and prevent heart problems, researchers suggest.

It’s important to take regular exercise and of course eat healthily as we all know – but it is even more important to stop smoking and moderate your alcohol intake – particularly later in the evening. It’s these lifestyle changes that will most protect you from heart problems and reduce the chance of early death as a result.

Researchers wanted to find out if getting a good night’s sleep – which they defined as seven hours or more a night – could enhance the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes. Several studies have already suggested that it can, and that lack of sleep is linked to a risk of being overweight, and to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A key symptom is snoring which obviously can seriously disturb your sleep pattern – and also that of others.

The research took place as follows and took 12 years in total

  1. Doctors and researchers studied almost 20,000 adults aged between 20 and 65 who had no previous history of heart problems.
  2. All of them were questioned about diet, exercise levels, whether they drank or smoke, and how much sleep they usually got each night.
  3. Then researchers recorded how many of the people in the study, which lasted about 12 years, died of heart problems, or had a heart attack or stroke during that time.

During the study period, 142 people died of heart problems, 239 had a heart attack, and 122 had a stroke – a total of 703 cases.

The key finding was that the healthier the person’s lifestyle, the less chance there was of dying of heart problems, or having a heart attack or stroke.

People who had a healthy diet, drank in moderation, didn’t smoke, and exercised often, reduced their chances of dying of heart problems, or having a heart attack or stroke, and even more if they had “sufficient sleep” every night – undisturbed by heavy snoring or sleep apnoea.

The results were conclusive and are important for us to act on immediately.

Eliminating snoring is key. Unless this is done the chance of a good night’s sleep is seriously restricted – both for the person snoring and their partner.

Tossing and turning is a familiar feeling for many and there are a number of key things that will prevent us from getting the restful night we both need and deserve.

The 5 main things that will disturb your sleep are:

  • Late night stimulants like coffee, alcohol or food
  • An uncomfortable or noisy environment including snoring by either you or your partner
  • An irregular routine – going to bed and waking up at different times each day
  • The wrong body temperature during sleep – too warm or too cold
  • Stress and a busy mind

The recent hot, humid weather across many parts of Britain has made for uncomfortable nights for quite a few people and although The Met Office says temperatures will now fall slightly, the humidity will remain fairly high.

Humidity is a big part of the problem, making it hard for sweat to evaporate. For many, getting to sleep will have been sweaty and uncomfortable, closer to the climate people associate with Bangkok rather than Birmingham.

Warm nights have been the biggest problems because in Northern Europe, most of us have mechanisms in place to keep our homes warm during the winter, but not to keep them cool during the summer. Our warmest summer nights can be a bit of a double whammy for our sleep, because we get exposed both to too much heat and too much light. So what can we do?

It’s mostly common sense and Mary Morrell, professor of sleep and respiratory physiology at Imperial College London suggests the following things to help. She recommends using thin cotton sheets, using an electric fan, opening relevant windows that don’t let in noise, cutting out late night tea, coffee and alcohol, and putting up heavier winter-style curtains to reduce the light.

All this will make for a better night’s sleep and of course we know the health benefits of that already.

By John Redfern

Sleep Apnoea and Snoring linked to Obesity

Obesity has long been considered one of the most important risk factors associated with heavy snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea – in particular visceral fat, a type that collects in the abdomen. Visceral fat is found in the abdominal cavity around the body’s organs and is thought of as a key trigger for both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Although both men and women are at risk for OSA, more men than women are diagnosed with the condition, and the associated mortality rates are also considered to be higher in men.

Although Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference were found to be very similar in the men and the women, it was men that had the greater degree by far of visceral fat in their abdomen. In addition, the incidence of OSA was higher in men and the degree of severity much greater. As well as producing higher cholesterol levels, this degree of visceral fat accumulation is associated with low blood-oxygen levels – often resulting in severe OSA.

On the other hand the researchers found no association in women between visceral fat accumulation and obstructive sleep apnoea. The only relationship found was with Body Mass Index – to be expected of course. Other studies have also found links between visceral fat and OSA, as well as the differences between the associated risks to men and women: Researchers at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine studied the relationship between visceral fat and OSA in non-obese men and women. In men, they found visceral fat associated with obstructive sleep apnoea. In women, visceral fat was not associated with OSA. However another type of fat—subcutaneous fat, located just beneath the skin in the abdomen and throughout the body—was associated with sleep apnoea in women.

Key Findings

  • A study of obese men and women found that visceral fat was significantly greater in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea than those without, leading researchers to suggest that visceral fat is an important risk factor for OSA in both men and women who are obese.
  • People with visceral fat accumulations and sleep-disordered breathing were significantly more likely to experience night-time acute coronary syndrome, a serious form of heart disease.
  • There is some good news for obstructive sleep apnoea patients who use therapy to treat their sleep disorder: research has indicated that visceral fat in people with OSA can be significantly reduced with regular, long-term use of the common therapies – either CPAP or the more easily accepted mouthpiece or splint to wear at night.

It’s estimated that about 5% of adults in the United Kingdom suffer from OSA, but the disorder is considered significantly under-diagnosed, particularly among women. Sleep apnoea is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as certain forms of cancer. There is a significant belief showing that people with OSA who snore heavily have greater risk of earlier mortality than those without the sleep disorder, if the disorder is left untreated. There are indications within some research that men are at greater risk for mortality than women, though it’s clear that both men and women with obstructive sleep apnoea face elevated health and mortality risks compared to those without the disorder.

The stakes are high for people with obstructive sleep apnoea: the disorder is profoundly disruptive to sleep and can lead to serious health problems if not identified and treated. Understanding more specifically the health and lifestyle conditions that may increase risks of sleep apnoea can lead to better screening and treatment options. It’s also important to continue to evaluate the ways that risks for men and women may differ, and to create screening criteria and treatment protocols tailored to the needs of each. For both men and women, maintaining a healthy weight, with particular attention to abdominal fitness, is important for good sleep and good health.

By John Redfern

Taking Green to the Mattress: Healthier and More Comfortable Sleep

The all-around benefits of going green aren’t just about saving the environment, but also about a safer, cleaner, and healthier alternative to the many options available in the marketplace. This is especially true as it relates to your mattress, a surface that you’ll spend up to one-third of your life on.

One of the greener alternatives as it relates to mattresses is natural latex foam. For a little bit of background on latex – this mattress material is tapped much like syrup is from the maple tree. In the case of botanical latex liquid, it is drawn from the Para rubber tree. This harvest is done sustainably, leaving the tree to continue growing and producing latex for up to 30 years. And the mattress is nothing short of a delight to sleep on.

Some of the wonderful benefits that all natural latex affords the sleeper are the botanical properties inherent in the Para rubber tree – that is, the end product is a mattress that is antimicrobial. This makes it so the individual needn’t worry about having a mattress that hosts dust mites, a common concern with traditional mattress types. Bed bugs are also extremely uncommon in latex, because there is nowhere for them to flourish and reproduce (the mattress core is solid, instead of open and empty spaces). Further, given that the green latex mattress is hypoallergenic, it is unlike many of the mattresses in the marketplace that are man-made and laced with petrochemicals that can cause allergic reactions and noxious off gassing. You’ll also find all-natural latex to be mold and mildew resistant.

How often have you heard of a mattress lasting longer than 10 years? That’s another advantage of going green in the bedroom – a green mattress can last 20+ years, and is very resilient, not experiencing the sagging or getting depressions in it over time that is common with innerspring mattresses that need to be replaces every 5-7 years.

One of the best things a person can notice with consistent sleep on a surface like natural latex is the pressure-relieving comfort that is given due to the pliable, elastic latex hugging the body’s curves, and giving it the opportunity to have its weight spread out evenly upon the mattress surface. And, it’s also a proven fact that it is much healthier on the spine for it to be in alignment while asleep. This is what makes latex a favorite among chiropractors and orthopedic specialists.

In the end, a mattress is about comfort and support – two things that a botanical latex mattress excels in. With the wonders of technology, the mattress core can be produced more densely to provide adequate support, and another process used to create a surface layer that is softer and pliable, giving the feeling as it were of almost sleeping on a cloud. Going green, saving money (in the long run), being healthier, and supporting the environment with a substance that biodegrades instead of takes up space in a landfill at the end of its useful life – what more could one ask for?

Amber Merton is a writer for PlushBeds, an online vendor of natural latex mattresses and other ecofriendly mattresses, such as their soy-based memory foam sleeper sofa mattress,

It’s official: Getting a good night’s sleep could save your life.

Sleep is good for the heart as well as the mind, say researchers, and to get seven or more hour’s sleep each night boosts the benefits to the heart of a healthy lifestyle.

The results were conclusive. According to a large and recent European research study into cardiovascular problems, all the traditional advice on exercise, diet, drinking and smoking contributed greatly to the reduction in deaths from heart disease or stroke, but even more lives were saved by also having enough undisturbed sleep – and the elimination of snoring is always regarded as a key stepping stone in this process.

The overwhelmingly strong message from these leading European researchers into Health matters is that seeking sound advice on getting enough sleep could have a substantial impact on public health and make a huge contribution – saving vast amounts of public money on the way.

In theory, many heart and stroke deaths could be prevented or postponed.

The research programme tracked heart disease and strokes in more than 14,000 men and women for more than a decade, and by the end of the study, about 600 individuals on the research panel had suffered heart disease or stroke, and 129 of them had died as a result.

The study found that deaths were much less likely in people who followed all four positive lifestyle recommendations:

  • Taking exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Not smoking

However this research emphatically establishes that combining a good night’s sleep with these other healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of heart disease considerably.

Observing all four behaviours was associated with a 57% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 67% lower risk of dying from stroke or heart disease, they say.  But when sufficient sleep was added to the equation – combining 7/8 hours good sleep with the other four lifestyle factors, the beneficial effect was amplified considerably – resulting in a 65% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and an 83% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Research studies have previously shown a link between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first time that sleep has been added to the other four healthy lifestyle recommendations, and with outstandingly clear results. This major leap in effectiveness is obviously more easily gained with the elimination of any degree of a snoring problem – the biggest contributor to accepted sleep disorder.

The conclusion:

If all participants adhered to all five healthy lifestyle factors, 36% of composite cardiovascular disease and 57% of fatal cardiovascular disease could theoretically be prevented or postponed.

The expert view:

It is apparent that the public health impact of sufficient sleep, in addition to the traditional healthy lifestyle factors, could be substantial and the benefits of sleep should be considered by public health experts and parents alike.

The main message of the study is that we need to consider sleep as an important factor for health and from a public health point of view we should encourage people to get enough sleep and like all other healthy lifestyle factors this needs to be taught at home.

By John Redfern