Britain needs to wake up to its sleep problem

Over the last week or two there’s been a great deal of attention from the nation’s media on the problem of disturbed sleep – even the lack of sleep altogether.

Scientists from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Manchester and Surrey universities warn collectively that today’s society has become ‘arrogant’ and ignores the fact that cutting sleep leads to health problems. They go on to say jointly that people, and governments, need to take the problem seriously. Cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity amongst many other things have all been linked to reduced sleep caused by a number of key factors – snoring being one of them.

Our body clock drives huge changes in the human body. It alters alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of stroke and heart attack in its daily rhythm. It stems from our 4 billion year evolutionary past when we were active in the day and then resting at night.

Young boy in bedroom using laptop and listening to MP3 player

Deposit Photos – The Digital Bedroom

Scientists warn that modern life and 24-hour society mean many people are now “living against” their body clocks with damaging consequences for their health and well-being. They have concluded that we’re getting between one and two hours less sleep a night than 60 years ago and are not trying to put this right.

This is an acute problem in teenagers and they had found some who sleep by popping their parent’s sleeping tablets in the evening and then downing three Red Bulls the following morning. The evidence suggests modern technology is now keeping all us up later into the night and cutting our sleep – not just our children and teenagers.

The ‘Blue Light’ problem

Prof Charles Czeisler, from Harvard University, said energy efficient light bulbs, as well as smartphones, tablets and computers had high levels of light in the blue end of the spectrum which is “right in the sweet spot” for disrupting the body clock.

In addition, opticians say people are so addicted to smartphones they may be increasing their risk of eye damage. They are warning that overuse of phones and other devices like computers, tablets, and flat screen TVs can lead to long-term damage.

6th Form students to start classes in the afternoon.

Some results are extraordinary, and in one case, Sixth Formers at a private school in Surrey are to begin their lessons in the afternoons to allow them to sleep later in the mornings. The pioneering decision will mean that A-level classes will finish at 19:00. Teenagers have a biological disposition “to going to bed late and struggling to get up early”, the school said.

Our 24-hour society now mean that many people are now “living against” their body clocks with damaging consequences for their health and wellbeing. One of the main causes of sleep loss, or poor quality sleep, is snoring – a problem that may be caused by numerous things; being overweight, lack of exercise, natural ageing, smoking, excess alcohol in the evenings, and numerous other lifestyle factors. Shift work can increase the problem along with poor sleep regimes as we’re finding amongst many social groups today.

It’s easily put right. The solution is in your hands, or in this case your mouth, when you acquire an oral appliance to wear at night. It’s a simple mouthpiece like a sports guard that will ensure healthy, restful and more satisfying sleep.

By John Redfern

Image: Depositphotos_4768703_original


Does snoring ruin your sex life?

According to the results of a recent poll published in a leading UK Newspaper the answer is definitely ‘YES’ – and the results of the poll were devastatingly clear.

Which sums up your Relationship (1)

Which of the above photos do you think best sums up your relationship?

• More than 20% of both sexes claimed that snoring put them off being intimate with their partner
• Almost 30% of men said it had taken the spark out of their sex lives, and nearly 50% were embarrassed by their snoring
• Nearly 40% of couples admitted that it had pushed them into separate bedrooms and had even led to break ups and divorce in some cases
• Nearly half of women claimed that snoring had an extremely negative effect on their relationship overall, not just in bed, due to fatigue and irritability
• In the older age groups, from 45-54, the results were even more positive, and they stated that snoring had totally ruined their sex life, and 1 in 5 even claimed that it had caused a total relationship breakdown

It has been long known that in addition to these things that snoring contributes to erectile dysfunction and decreased libido, and this adds to the problem in a big way.

There’s nothing like a disturbed night’s sleep caused by a snoring partner to inject lots of friction into a relationship and this recent survey certainly proved it, according to the experts in sleep research, and relationships, who carried it out. Disturbed sleep was found to be seriously detrimental to relationships, and even just one poor night had an impact.

During the period of the study the people who slept the worse, on average, found that they were much more likely to argue with their partners on the next day. In interviews, the sources of the conflict were evaluated and irritability and fatigue were the key triggers. Heavy snoring had often forced them to sleep apart and move into separate bedrooms – for ‘survival’ reasons. Worryingly though, 70% of men and 66% of women found that this made them ‘emotionally distant’ from their partner.

One respondent said “My husband has had to sleep in a separate bedroom due to his snoring for years now. Sadly his snoring has taken the romance out of our relationship. We go to bed separately and get ready in separate rooms in the morning.”

The survey was also covered in leading US Newspapers, including The New York Times, who stated: “Instead of spontaneous interaction, couples have to make a planned effort to meet up. Over time, the loss of sexual activity can lead to a lack of intimacy and bonding”.

Spending time in bed together is crucial for couples because it is devoid of the distractions of work, children and obligations. In addition to sex, couples cuddle, touch, and chat, all of which are an important part of the bonding process that holds relationships together.

They recommend that to avoid the early untimely demise of your sex life, the guilty partner should get some form of treatment for the underlying problem – snoring. Doing so will not just improve your relationship, but also address the problem of sleep apnoea, which affects many snorers and is a rising problem due to our lifestyles.

The good news is that both snoring and sleep apnoea are very treatable. In most cases, snoring, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, decreased libido and other health issues that may be preventing sex can be easily treated and reversed.

By John Redfern

 

 


How Women sleep differently to Men – and why it matters

It has been known for a long time that women take longer to fall asleep and new research from the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) has verified it. As well as being slower to get to sleep, they feel ‘sleepiness’ more than men and have an increased risk of insomnia. On the other hand, when asleep, they spend much longer in deep sleep.

Insomnia

Much of the understanding of why sex differences in sleep exist and also how these differences may affect treatment lag far behind any other areas of knowledge with regards to sleep and sleep disorders. Much of what we have in medical literature focuses only on snoring and sleep apnoea, long regarded solely as a male problem – but certainly not true.

Hoping to correct this lack of information, some of the leading names in women’s sleep research were brought together by SWHR to gather information on the the matter, including sleep experts from both Harvard and Stanford Universities. They found that hormonal shift seems to play a big role; and these times for a woman are when she appears most vulnerable to insomnia, both monthly, and also around the menopause. Restless legs syndrome is also much more common in pregnant women than in men, children, or women who have not had children, but the exact hormonal connection however is yet to be established.

Women are bringing sleep-related concerns to their doctors, but the statistics aren’t pointing to the real problems that exist. Sleep apnoea is a prime example of this.

Men with the condition are likely to report snoring, snorting, or waking up and gasping for breath. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to report fatigue, depression and un-refreshing sleep.

All this underlines that much more detailed research is required into women’s sleep disorders as well as the current work that mostly deals with men. Sleep apnoea of course is far from exclusive to men, and the number of women sufferers is growing – but is this through an increase in the number of sufferers or improved diagnosis?

Further to this in the UK, Sleep specialist Dr Neil Stanley of the University of Surrey told the British Science Festival how bed-sharing causes rows over snoring and duvet hogging, and this often robs women of precious sleep. One study found that, on average, couples suffered 50% more sleep disturbances if they shared a bed.

Dr Stanley points out that historically we were never meant to share our beds. He said the modern tradition of the marital bed only began with the industrial revolution, when people moving to overcrowded towns and cities found themselves short of living space. Before the Victorian era it was not uncommon for married couples to sleep apart, and in ancient Rome, the marital bed was a place for sexual congress but not for sleeping.

He said poor sleep was linked to depression, heart disease, strokes, lung disorders, traffic and industrial accidents, and divorce, yet sleep was largely ignored as an aspect of health.  Dr Robert Meadows, a sociologist at the University of Surrey, said: “People actually feel that they sleep better when they are with a partner but the evidence suggests otherwise.”

In his study he found that when couples share a bed and one of them moves in his or her sleep, there is a 50% chance that their slumbering partner, more often the woman, will be disturbed as a result. Despite this, couples are reluctant to sleep apart, with only 8% of those in their 40s and 50s sleeping in separate rooms, the British Science Festival heard.

By John Redfern


Community initiative by West Ham United puts the focus on health

Having watched my regular weekly dose of soccer on BBC, which amounted to the highlights of the weekend games, I watched as part of that an interview with Tony Carr, MBE, the Director of Youth Team Development at Premier League Club, West Ham United.

West Ham paid tribute to Dylan Tombides, a promising Australian youth international who died aged 20 in London on Friday, following a three-year battle with testicular cancer, and was honoured by his club before Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace.

It is not just Tony Carr’s work for the club though that deserves special mention. He is a tireless worker for charity – not least for youngsters with diabetes – which is something that is often related by experts to snoring and sleep disorders. Three years ago, Carr was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. After learning to live with the condition and proving it should be no barrier to a healthy and active life, Carr has been involved with a number of awareness events.

As a result the club have set up regular fitness training events hosted by both coaching staff and players that the local fan base are invited to attend, and it reminded me of some recent events in the United States where a similar thing occurred.

Aaron Rodger of the Green Bay Packers

NFL fans were stunned when football legend Reggie White – known as the ‘Minister of Defence’ throughout his career with the Green Bay Packers – died in 2004 at the age of 43 from issues related to obstructive sleep apnoea.

To quote Diabetes Health:

“As a problem that disrupts the healthy sleep of millions of Americans and puts them at risk of a host of health problems, sleep apnoea is especially common among former professional football players, although like most of the population, they usually don’t know they have it.”

As a consequence, to raise awareness of the devastating and potentially deadly disorder, the ‘Hall of Fame’ has launched SAPP – the Sleep Apnoea Prevention Project, with the objective of encouraging everyone with undiagnosed sleep apnoea to take measures to improve their condition.  Because obstructive sleep apnoea is often linked to obesity, it makes sense that it is an especially big risk for former NFL players, who are encouraged to ‘beef up’ during their playing years but are plagued with obesity in retirement.

It’s an everyday problem for many in the United Kingdom too, as we age or become overweight. Different than snoring, obstructive sleep apnoea is caused by blockages of the airways during sleep, often from excess tissue in the throat or muscles that have grown slack with age. Those who have it essentially stop breathing during sleep, sometimes as many as a hundred times a night, which prevents the deep, restorative sleep that is essential to good health. Instead of waking refreshed, they wake up exhausted.

Awareness of this condition is especially important, because despite the warning signs – snoring, daytime exhaustion, headaches and sexual dysfunction among them – many of those living with sleep apnoea have no idea.  Often the first to report it is the partner, who cannot sleep for their snoring and hears them gasping for breath in the night.

Without treatment in one form or another, the only outcome is a shortened lifespan, so it makes sense to take steps as soon as possible to prevent the problem to catch it. Simply by wearing a simple oral appliance, very like a sports mouth protector, the problem is often overcome at a very early stage in the simplest of ways. The appliance moves the jaw forward slightly during sleep and keeps the airways open, so the brain is not deprived of regular oxygen.

More sports led initiatives of this nature are really needed, and have amazing value in pointing out that preserving good health is so key – and often so simple.

By John Redfern


Snoring and lack of sleep are major problems in Britain

Two more leading companies have published findings in the last week that focus on this area, and their names may come as a surprise, as neither one of them is a part of the health industry, or even connected to it.

The first is Febreze, who are known primarily for products that improve air freshness, and who have published a report stating that stress, bad dreams and partner’s snoring means millions of us are struggling to nod off every single night of the week, and worse still at weekends. They claim that almost nine in ten of us have nights of disturbed sleep because of these problems, with more than a third saying they rarely have a full night’s good sleep.

It amounts on average, to almost two hours of vital shut-eye being lost on three different nights a week due to restlessness for one of the above stated reasons, and in total that’s nearly six hours each and every week which amounts to around 12 full days each year.

Couple arguing

Around one in three even admitted they get really angry or resent their partner for sleeping soundly next to them while they are lying awake and struggling to sleep.

Overall the lack of sleep is affecting their mood and productivity, with almost two thirds also admitting people have even commented to them on how bad they look after a disturbed night’s sleep, whilst more than eight in ten also admitted that they struggle to concentrate at work after a night of tossing and turning, with 22% making mistakes, or even struggling to make it in to work, with another one in ten nodding off en route.

Joining them in publishing facts on this same subject were a company aptly named Late Rooms, a website for hotel bookings, and offering exactly what its name says.

Their report underlined the fact that if you’ve ever been woken up by your partner’s loud snoring, then you’re certainly far from alone; in fact it applies to approximately one third of women, although only 15 per cent of men. On the whole men snore more, and louder, but it’s not restricted to them as a problem, and more women are growing aware of the fact that they do it too.

The findings state that only a quarter of the population gets an uninterrupted night of sleep on a regular basis – and a massive 3 out of 4 people don’t. This causes health and mood problems, even affects your looks and is often harmful to close relationships.

A well-known Throat and Nose Specialist, in commenting on the findings, said that snoring “can be a serious cause of marital and relationship disharmony.” He went on to add: “The majority of patients I see in my clinic are men, although there are women too, and they almost always have a story about how their snoring is affecting their relationship. Either they end up sleeping in separate beds several times a week, or they don’t and it simply causes major arguments.”

We are all aware today that snoring can so easily be prevented and it’s important to act to resolve it before it escalates to a major health or domestic problem, or even becomes life-threatening if it develops further.

By John Redfern


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


World Sleep Day 2014: Snoring – tips to prevent or treat the problem!

It was the author of A Clockwork Orange who wrote, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

As we all well know, snoring is a problem that people have always made fun of. The fact is because that the person who sleeps with the snorer are the real sufferers, rather than the person who suffers from the problem. However, jokes apart, snoring can be a very serious problem and could also indicate a potentially life-threatening condition like OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea).

Depositphotos_29376635_original

So, as this week included World Sleep Day, maybe you should decide that it’s time to put an end to your snoring problem. For you to know what can make you stop snoring, you need to understand what snoring is, what causes it to occur, and in what way it could actually be life threatening.

What is snoring? What causes it?

Firstly, snoring is a condition that occurs when airflow is obstructed while you’re sleeping. Basically, the back of your mouth and nose is covered with soft tissues and the collapse of the soft palate at the back of your throat is the main culprit for your snore. With every incoming breath, the palate vibrates and by obstructing the airflow, causes snoring.

Why only some people snore and others don’t?

Not everyone is blessed with enough space in the nose and throat to have a soundless sleep. There are a lot of people who snore because they have narrow airways, either permanently or temporarily, for various reasons:

  • You might suddenly start snoring when you suffer from flu, blocked sinuses or allergies. This happens because your nose gets blocked and you start breathing through your mouth. When you breathe through your mouth your tongue is pushed backwards and the soft palate starts vibrating which creates the sound.
  • People who have a throat infection or tonsillitis have swelling in the throat that can obstruct the airways. This type of snoring is not serious and it goes away once you fully recover from the infection.
  • Polyps – soft growth on the linings of the nasal passage, can also cause snoring
  • People who have a deviated septum also have obstructed airways.
  • Snoring may also be genetic and it’s possible you snore because your parents do.

Why can snoring be life threatening?

Regular snorers are at a risk of serious problems like OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea). Anyone suffering from this may experience partial or complete blockage of airways when sleeping when airflow can be blocked for period of 10 seconds or more. Because the breathing is stopped, the oxygen levels in your blood drops, and these low levels of oxygen can affect all the systems in your body and actually kill you. Prolonged OSA is also linked to hypertension, heart disease and numerous other serious illnesses.

Also, if you have most of the signs of OSA, like drowsiness during the daytime due to low oxygen levels, then you may also suffer from upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). This condition is similar to OSA but people who have this condition have a tendency to breathe heavily to overcome the resistance of obstructed airways.

Is there any permanent treatment for snoring?

There are both surgical and non-surgical treatments available for the treatment of snoring and all the procedures mostly focus on minimizing the flapping or movement of the soft palate at the back of the throat.

Surgical treatment options include:

  • Septum surgery: People having a deviated septum can choose nasal surgery
  • Surgical removal of the uvula
  • Laser assisted trimming of the soft tissues of the palate.

Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Dental devices or mouthpieces: These devices are designed such that the lower jaw is held forward which prevents the tongue from moving behind. They have shown to improve snoring in over 90% of all cases.
  • Nasal medications: Certain nasal spray and medications can improve breathing by clearing nasal blockages for temporary help
  • Nasal devices: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a nasal device used for treating snoring in people with OSA. It has two components: the nasal mask and a pump that controls air pressure. It is worn throughout the night and the pump provides a constant air pressure that prevents the airway narrowing during inhalation and exhalation.

If you or your partner snores, you should act on these findings and not waste another year. You may not be able to so easily celebrate World Snoring Day 2015 if you don’t.

John Redfern