No woman really wants to snore…but they represent 40% of snorers…. and often the majority of them go untreated
Snoring is always considered to be a male domain and of course does affect significant numbers of middle-aged men – but evidence clearly shows that many women fail to realize that they suffer from the same chronic condition – and are blind to the health implications it may have.
“Women in particular do not like to think they snore – there’s a stigma attached to it – yet they account for 40 per cent of snorers,” says Dr Martin Allen, consultant physician at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, and spokesperson for the British Lung Foundation. “It can affect women of any age, though it is more common after the menopause.”
As far as health is concerned snoring has been linked with a slightly increased risk of blood pressure, higher cholesterol and stroke.
More often than not it’s a symptom of a serious sleep disorder called sleep apnoea that can have very serious implications for health if left untreated, as it is often.
Although as few as 4 per cent of the population suffer from this problem, fewer than 10 per cent of those affected get any form of treatment.
“It’s thought sleep apnoea puts the body into fight or flight mode and encourages the release of hormones and chemicals in the blood that may trigger these conditions,” says Dr Allen.
“That’s why it’s so important to get treatment if you have sleep apnoea. There is evidence to show people who didn’t receive treatment for this condition had an increased risk of heart attack compared to those who did. And these hormones can lead to a sustained increase in blood pressure.”
It can affect a woman of any age but is often linked to the type of health changes that occur in pregnancy or during the menopause.
Statements from other specialists in the UK support these conclusions in connection with sleep apnoea. “Sleep apnoea is certainly becoming a more common problem in young women due to the increasing incidence of obesity,” says Alasdair Mace, who is an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and Head and Neck surgeon at Charing Cross and St Mary’s Hospitals in London.
The condition has been clearly linked to heart failure and type 2 diabetes. Couple this to the recent findings in the USA that linked sleep apnoea to a five-fold increase in cancer and we begin to understand the seriousness of the risk involved.
Any factors that narrow the airway can increase this risk and in sleep apnoea, obstruction is caused by the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relaxing and collapsing so much they cause a total blockage.
One key symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea is snoring, but what is worse is that the patient stops breathing frequently. All of which can be lessened in severity if not totally overcome by modern technology.
Rather than referral for surgery, or constant use of oxygen through the night, it is easy to take appropriate steps to minimize or prevent it happening. The first step often recommended by the HNS is to fit a simple mouthpiece for mandibular adjustment, keeping the airway clear and preventing the main cause of snoring.
Nevertheless always make sure to raise any snoring problems with your doctor. Keep him informed – it will pay dividends.
By John Redfern