THIS WEEK IS NATIONAL STOP SNORING WEEK IN THE UK

Choose the right solution for your type of snoring.

SleepPro Stop Snoring Week Poster

Millions of people in Britain often miss out on a good night’s sleep because of a partner’s nocturnal loud snoring. This can lead to many different aspects of poor health, particularly for the person snoring, but also for the one who has the disturbed night.

Many serious illnesses are closely related to snoring including major life-threatening problems such as Type 2 Diabetes, Cancer, Strokes, Heart attacks and many more. Nearly half of all middle-aged men snore, but it’s not solely a male problem. It affects women too, particularly later in life, and after the menopause.

In fact, currently it’s estimated that 41% of adult Britons snore, and the total is growing, mostly due to changes in lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, and gaining weight.

As there are numerous causes for snoring, the key thing is to work out what type of snorer you are before buying devices and remedies to help.

The main triggers for snoring have already been listed and are often difficult to deal with:

Weight gain is linked to a host of health problems and is a main trigger for snoring in men because, unlike women, they have a tendency to put on weight around their necks. If you have a larger collar size (17 and above) the fatty tissue around the neck will squeeze the airway and hinder the smooth passage of oxygen when you are breathing in your sleep. This narrowing is what causes the vibration called snoring. Losing weight through careful diet and exercise is obviously the solution and will help snoring to decrease over time.

Alcohol is another trigger and because it’s a sedative it helps to relax the muscles at the back of the throat – again causing snoring as the throat constricts. Sleeping pills and some medication, such as antihistamines, can produce a similar effect. The answer is of course to drink less, particularly in the later hours before going to bed.

Smoking is a common problem and smokers are roughly twice as likely to snore as non-smokers. The cigarette smoke irritates the lining of the nasal cavity and throat, causing swelling and catarrh – the result is snoring. The congestion makes it difficult to breathe through the nose and the more you smoke, the more you’ll snore – and even passive smoking plays a part.

Other factors such as allergies, including hay fever, can cause congestion, and also your sleeping position, can also be a trigger. Sleeping on your back causing the airway to close by falling back on itself is also a reason for snoring.

The important thing however, before selecting a remedy for snoring, is to analyse how you snore, and for this you may need your partner’s help to look. The key areas to identify that will determine what you can buy to help you are as follows:

Type 1 • Mouth breathing

If you sleep through the night with your mouth open, you are likely to snore. When we breathe in through the nose, the air passes over the curved part of the soft palate in a gentle flow into the throat without creating unnecessary turbulence. However, when we breathe in through the mouth, the air hits the back of the throat ‘head on’ and can create enormous vibrations in the soft tissue.

Solution: Mouth breathing devices, including Chin Straps to prevent the mouth falling open will help you to breathe through your nose.

Type 2 • Tongue base snoring

If you’ve been a heavy snorer for some time, damage to the nerves and muscles of the upper airway mean they’re more prone to collapse and this restricts the airway and vibrates the tissue of the tongue, causing it to block the airway and so preventing you from breathing. This is termed apnoea – literally meaning “without breath”.

Solution: Clinical studies show that a mandibular advancement device (MAD) can help keep the tongue away from the back of the throat by moving the jaw forward slightly.

Or is it obstructive sleep apnoea?

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition that leads to constantly interrupted breathing during sleep and is caused by an obstruction to the airway. It affects around four per cent of middle-aged men and two per cent of middle-aged women, and studies indicate that 60 per cent of those over 65 have OSA.

Those affected stop breathing for periods of 10 seconds or more before waking with a loud snore or snort as the brain registers a lack of oxygen. People with sleep apnoea usually complain of excessive daytime sleepiness often with irritability or restlessness but have no recollection of episodes of apnoea. It’s usually the bed partner who notices the symptoms in this case.

OSA can range from very mild to very severe. But, left untreated, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and other conditions. Treatment ranges from a MAD for mild to moderate conditions, to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), using a machine to prevent your airway from collapsing or becoming blocked, for those who have it severely.

In essence it’s a 3-way choice – a Chin Strap, an oral appliance (MAD), or CPAP – but the latter is only for the most severe cases of obstructive sleep apnoea and it needs thorough diagnosis and careful medical supervision. MAD’s and Chin Straps on the other hand are inexpensive and easily available without prescription from NHS approved suppliers.

By John Redfern


How snoring and sleep problems can cause heart conditions

Research tells us that snoring, sleep disorders and heart disease are closely linked and one condition can lead to the other. When you sleep, it provides your heart with a chance to slow down, and let breathing and blood pressure drop to lower levels lower than when awake.

Sleep-related disorders such as snoring or sleep apnoea are very common in society today and can have a seriously adverse effect on health and well being – both physical and mental. It has an effect on quality of life, and even safety. To stay in good health and replenish important energy levels it is vital to get the right amount of quality restorative sleep. This plays an important role in strengthening the immune system, supporting healthy growth and development, and even sustaining proper brain function.

Numerous research studies underline the very close relationship that exists between sleep disorders and heart disease; they are totally inter-related and one leads to the other.

The heart, although quite a small organ, has incredible importance, as we all know. Despite it being approximately the same size as a clenched fist, it has to do the work of something that one would believe should be much larger. During the average day, it is estimated that the heart pumps almost 2,000 gallons of blood around the body; truly a most vital organ that does a vast amount of work for us. It is because of this that it can be strained if not looked after well.

Sleep is the time when the heart rests and recovers. During that time breathing and blood pressure fall to lower levels and allow the heart to regain its strength.

middle aged woman having heart attack

Major health problems can therefore occur if good, restorative, regular sleep time is not achieved and as a result this can lead to as number of heart-related conditions including:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Chest pain.
  • Hardening of the arteries.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Coronary heart disease.
  • Congestive heart defects.

Research by all leading organisations and hospitals show that habitual loud snorers have a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems, when they are compared to those who hardly or never snore at all. The soft tissue in the neck, relaxing and blocking the airway, causes snoring so that the air has to be forced through the narrowed passage. As our muscles get weaker with age, the condition is more prevalent, and has the result of cutting down on the oxygen supply that is being provided. This is aggravated by other factors such as being overweight, consumption of alcohol, certain medications such as sedatives, and smoking.

If you suffer from this type of sleep disorder it’s also likely that you’ll feel sleepy during the day, reducing concentration, and bringing the risk of falling asleep while driving or working. More and more road accidents are caused because of this and recent AA estimates place it as high as 20% when fatalities are involved. Treatment in one form or another is therefore vital and the problem must not be ignored.

Medical recommendations for sleep disorders may include one or several of the following:

  • Losing excess weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Cutting out alcohol
  • Avoiding sleeping pills

In addition more thorough treatment may be suggested that can be put in place immediately as most of the items above are difficult to achieve for some people, and take time. Options include:

  • Surgery on the upper airway to remove tissue – if necessary or appropriate
  • Using a pressurised mask and air tank throughout the night – this is called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and allows air to be forced through the airway
  • Using a simple mouth guard that slightly repositions the lower jaw and opens the airway. This is similar to a sports gum shield and often the most popular way due to simplicity.

Bear in mind that early treatment can help you recover from your sleep disorder and reduce the risk of other serious health issues.

By John Redfern


Sleep disruption from shift work linked to serious health problems

The latest research studies on sleep, snoring and their related illnesses

Shift work could damage almost 1,500 genes – explaining why it has been linked to a range of health problems, a study shows. Disruption to the timing of sleep, also caused by jet lag, is feared to increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.

The researchers found disrupting the body’s natural 24 hour cycle disturbed the rhythm of genes.

Doctors have been worried for years that our 24/7 culture could have unintended consequences for human health with more than four million people – 17 per cent of employees in the UK now working shifts. One study showed night shifts triple the risk of heart disease while mental health problems, cancer, depression, diabetes, obesity and strokes have also been linked to disturbed nights due to poor sleeping habits and heavy snoring.

Poor sleep linked to pain in older people

Older people who have non-restorative sleep may be more likely to develop widespread pain, UK researchers have found. The study, published in Arthritis and Rheumatology, also found that a range of other lifestyle factors among the over 50s may also increase the risk of developing widespread pain.

Muscle, bone and nerve pain is more common as people age, with up to 80% of individuals aged 65 and over experiencing pain every day. Widespread pain that affects multiple areas of the body – the hallmark feature of fibromyalgia – affects 15% of women and 10% of men over age 50, according to previous studies.

Further analysis found that a lack of restorative sleep was an important factor leading to the development of widespread pain. These people had responded positively to the question: ‘During the past 4 weeks did you wake up after your usual amount of sleep feeling tired and worn out?’

However, other lifestyle factors might contribute to the condition, too, the authors say. These include anxiety, such as money worries, memory impairment and poor physical health.

Even a little weight loss may ease Sleep Apnoea

Finnish researchers said losing as little as 5 percent of body weight seems to lead to significant improvement in the condition — in which breathing pauses frequently while people are asleep, resulting in disrupted sleep and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight is considered the most important risk factor for obstructive sleep apnoea and being moderately overweight increases the risk for obstructive sleep apnea tenfold. It has been estimated that around 70 percent of all patients with obstructive sleep apnea are obese.

Snoring & Heart Disease: New study shows the risks

Does snoring keep you or your partner up at night? Considering a new study showing the potential health risk between snoring and heart disease, you may want to take some action or in the worst cases discuss the issue with your doctor. According to the study, excessive snoring may cause thickening in the walls of carotid arteries, which are the arteries linking heart to brain.

913 patients ranging in age from 18 to 50 years old who did not have sleep apnoea were asked to fill out a survey on their snoring habits. From there, ultrasounds of the carotid arteries were done for each person. Comparisons were made of the thickness found in snorers compared to non-snorers and it found that, on average, snorers had a greater degree of thickening in their heart’s carotid arteries. It should be noted that everyone has some degree of thickness to the wall of their carotid arteries, but it found this value to be higher on average in snorers.

By John Redfern


Sleep apnoea kills – and was proved to do so in this accident on the A1

As part of a worldwide programme of events on World Sleep Day in March, there was a call to action on many important issues relating to sleep, particularly obstructive sleep apnoea – OSA – a disorder that is highly dangerous. Heavy snorers often suffer from OSA.

Good, restorative sleep is continuous and is uninterrupted, deep, and of adequate length. If you achieve all of these, you should feel rested and alert throughout the day. If you’re missing one or more element, your concentration, productivity, attention and alertness will suffer. Daytime sleepiness can also be dangerous, leading to motor vehicle accidents.

Speaking at a road traffic accident prevention conference a day after World Sleep Day, a Harley Street sleep specialist warned delegates:

“OSA affects approximately 4% of male adults and 2% of the female population. If not properly managed, OSA can have a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being. It is suspected that about 20% of car accidents are sleep-related and research has shown that sleepiness can impair driving more than drink! In fact, patients with OSA have a 7-12 fold chance of a road traffic accident compared to those who do not, and test results in Lincolnshire have shown that treating OSA can reduce the accident rate dramatically.”
Sleep researcher.

Co-incidentally, at the same time as World Sleep Day, at a Court hearing being heard in Newcastle, the Operations Director of a leading British bank went on trial for causing a fatal crash due to dangerous driving. Prosecutors claimed he had been driving at speed in his BMW on his way to work from his home in Scotland. It was alleged he became distracted at the wheel, and his car as a result drifted into oncoming northbound traffic on a single carriageway stretch of the A1.

One vehicle had to swerve onto a verge to avoid him, but he struck a glancing blow to another car before hitting a van almost head on, and in doing so killing the driver and seriously injuring his passenger.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the bank boss accepted that his car caused the fatal collision but claimed he could not remember anything about the journey south of Berwick.

Jurors were told that after the accident he went for tests and he was found to have obstructive sleep apnoea. He denied causing death by dangerous driving on the grounds he must have been unconscious during a “micro-sleep” associated with the disorder.

A few days later on 20th March, he was cleared of causing the death of the van driver in the head-on crash after falling asleep at the wheel. It was stated in the Press that he had must have been having a “micro sleep” caused by the sleep apnoea condition which was undiagnosed at the time of the collision. The Mail reported that he underwent sleep tests after the incident and these revealed that he definitely had the sleeping condition. During the trial a sleep specialist said he had diagnosed him with OSA – obstructive sleep apnoea.

As well as affecting other aspects of health, OSA can lead to these micro-sleeps, which can last from just fragments of a second to as much as ten seconds in length, the problem that caused the accident during which his lack of consciousness and allowed him to drift across the road and into the oncoming traffic.

The problem can strike anyone at any age although it’s more likely in men, particularly from middle age onwards, and may affect many at work; being particularly dangerous if someone is driving or working with machinery. Sleepiness and fatigue from OSA and heavy disruptive snoring can however affect any type of working situation during the day.

A simple oral appliance, if used at night when sleeping, can eliminate this problem in most cases, and needs wider recommendation.

By John Redfern