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


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).


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

When your partner has a sleep disorder – you suffer too

When your partner has a sleep disorder such as snoring, it’s a very good bet that he or she is not the only one missing out on a good night’s rest. More than likely, your sleep is being affected too. Having a partner with a sleep disorder can cause you to lose nearly one full hour of sleep every night and that adds up to 12.5 full days of lost sleep each year.

This loss of sleep is important to you as it can have a major impact on your health and well-being. In rare instances, some disorders cause your partner to flail around and this could be putting even your physical health in nightly jeopardy, as black eyes are not unknown. A partner’s heavy snoring can also seriously affect your personal life. One out of every three adults with a partner says they have major relationship problems as a result of their partner’s disordered sleep.

Man snoring loudly as partner blocks her ears at home in bedroom

Fortunately you don’t have to suffer in sleepy silence. There are useful tips and techniques for coping with your partner’s sleep disorder, and you should always encourage your partner to seek help for a sleep disorder

Your spouse might be snoring loud enough to wake the neighbours, or perhaps even sleepwalking throughout the entire house. However, as long as he or she sleeps throughout the night, they might not even realise there is a problem, and that is often the start of a major problem. Although you may try to grin and bear it, it’s important to realise that encouraging your partner to get help to prevent this is a sign you care.

Snoring is one of the most common sleep problems. It can be harmless, but it can also be a real danger to health. It affects many middle-aged men but can also occur in women, though much less often. If it is the type known as sleep apnoea, it can lead to a host of medical problems, including death.

Snoring and sleep apnoea are simple problems to resolve by the use of a stop snoring mouthpiece which resembles a sports gum shield and adjusts the jaw just enough to open the airways. It will stop the snoring immediately and guard their health. These easy to wear appliances are NHS Approved and can be bought online without prescription for very little – particularly compared to the benefits that they bring to both the relationship and each individual’s health and general welfare.

At other times a sleeping problem can be a symptom of another more dangerous medical problem that can cause insomnia. Properly recognising and treating the underlying condition will also alleviate your partner’s abnormal sleeping habits. So if you notice a change in your partner’s sleeping habits or their sleep disorder is interfering with your sleep, encourage them to consult with his or her doctor. You can even help your partner keep a detailed sleep diary for a couple of weeks to document the symptoms. That will help the doctor identify the problem and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Once your partner’s sleep disorder has been identified, there are many ways that you can help him or her deal with the diagnosis and manage the condition. That will ultimately mean a better night’s rest for both of you – and a happier, healthier life.

John Redfern

Half the people who snore loudly have obstructive sleep apnoea

Snoring, put simply, is noisy breathing during sleep. It is a common problem among all ages and both genders, and it affects many millions of adults on a regular basis. Snoring may occur nightly, or intermittently, and the persons most at risk are males and those who are overweight. However snoring is a problem of both genders, although it is possible that women do not suffer with this complaint as frequently as men. Snoring usually becomes more serious as people age and it can cause disruptions to your own sleep and also that of your bed-partner. It can lead to fragmented and un-refreshing sleep, and this translates, into poor daytime function – tiredness and sleepiness.

woman who can not sleep because her husband snores

Often, this snoring is accompanied by episodes of stopped breathing known as obstructive sleep apnoea. Some women have success getting their husband diagnosed and treated for their snoring and sleep apnoea. Often, this snoring is accompanied by episodes of stopped breathing known as obstructive sleep apnoea. Some women have success getting their husband diagnosed and treated for their snoring and sleep apnoea.

If they snore and have high blood pressure or diabetes, they need to be assessed for sleep apnoea. A lot of time it’s the patient’s sleep partner who raises the red flag that there’s a problem. There’s an 80% chance that if a partner has to sleep on the couch because of snoring that the other has obstructive sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by pauses of breath or shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. There are three types of sleep apnoea: mixed, central, and obstructive, the latter being the most common. People who suffer from sleep apnoea repeatedly stop breathing during their sleep. The affects of sleep apnoea are more than just being tired during the day. The disorder can have serious consequences and lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

However, the majority of women report difficulty in convincing their husbands to seek some form of medical attention. They should remember that this common medical problem not only interferes with the couple’s ability to share their marital bed, but also puts the intimacy that once was present in their marriage at risk.

Most men are unaware of any snoring or apnoea because they are sleeping. Even so, while interrupted or inadequate sleep takes its toll on women, the snoring and sleep apnoea are taking their toll on his health and longevity in a serious way.

It seems pretty clear that if men are going to get the treatment they need for snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea, then it’s up to their wives to take action. He deserves a long, healthy life full of vitality, and women deserve better sleep, more energy and a more intimate relationship with the man they fell in love with. Of course, this call to action applies regardless of who is the snorer in the relationship.

The solution is quick – and it’s also simple. Take my advice and buy him a stop snoring mouthpiece – an oral appliance like a sports gum shield that repositions the jaw just enough to open the airways. The results are immediate – and successful. Oral appliances of this type are NHS Approved and easily available online for a very small outlay – particularly compared to the benefits that they bring to the relationship and each individual.

John Redfern

Shift work, poor sleep patterns, and ill health are related

Doctors have been worried for years that our 24/7 lifestyle 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.

A research study done at the University of Surrey showed that night shifts triple the risk of heart disease while mental health problems, cancer, depression, diabetes, obesity and strokes have also been linked to poor sleeping habits including heavy bouts of snoring. Not surprisingly, this is called Shift work sleep disorder.

Shift work sleep disorder

Shift work sleep disorder is trouble sleeping because you work nights or rotating shifts. You also may have this problem if you have trouble staying awake or alert when you are supposed to be working your shift. You may not be able to sleep during the day, and you may not feel adequately rested with the sleep that you do get.

DJ at work in a club

Shift work sleep disorder involves a problem with your body’s 24-hour internal clock, or circadian rhythm. Light and dark help your body know when to be active and when to rest. Light is a cue to be awake, while dark tells your body to sleep. When you work at night and sleep during the day, your body’s internal clock needs to reset to let you sleep during the day. Sometimes that’s hard to do.

This sleep disorder usually is a problem for people who work all night. But people who work an early morning shift-for example, starting at 4 a.m. – also may have sleep problems. Rotating shift work also can be hard. In these shifts, people work the day shift on some days and the night shift on others or it can change each week.

Many people that work nights get plenty of restful sleep during the day. Some people are “night owls,” and they adjust well to working at night. So getting enough good sleep is not a problem for everyone who works nights.

The research into night shift sleep patterns

To assess the effect on the body of this disruption, researchers placed a panel of participants on a 28-hour day schedule without a natural light-dark cycle. As a result their sleep-wake cycle was delayed by four hours each day until they were sleeping 12 hours out of sync with a normal day. Blood samples showed that after this experiment the volunteers had a six-fold reduction in the number of genes that displayed a ‘circadian rhythm’ – a rhythm with an approximately 24 hour period.

All the participants were aged in their 20’s and the sleep study was carried out in very carefully controlled laboratory conditions. This research may help us understand the negative health outcomes associated with shift work, jet lag and other conditions in which the rhythms of our genes are disrupted and it may be very relevant for conditions in which our body clocks are altered such as in ageing.

The overall conclusions

The main findings were that shift work could damage almost 1,500 genes, explaining why it has been linked to such a wide range of health problems, and this 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.

John Redfern

Heavy snorers are twice as likely to suffer a fatal stroke

The key findings of this new research were as follows:

  • A major study of more than 25,000 people found the risk of a fatal blood clot more than doubled if someone snored through the night.
  • They were also 80 per cent more likely to have heart disease
  • Heavy snorers are twice as likely to suffer a deadly stroke than those who spend their nights sleeping peacefully.

Young woman and her snoring boyfriend
A major study of more than 25,000 people found the risk of a fatal blood clot more than doubled if someone snored through the night. These alarming findings, published in the International Journal of Cardiology, suggest the dangers of heavy snoring are greater than previously thought.

Around three million people suffer with the snoring condition sleep apnoea, with at least one in four men and one in ten women affected. There are however, millions of other heavy snorers who go undiagnosed.

As sleep begins, the muscles in the airways relax. While this does not pose a problem for most people, in sleep apnoea it leads to breathing being shut off for at least ten seconds. Air vibrates against the soft tissue that stands in its way, causing the characteristic ‘rasping’ sound that snorers make.

Once the brain realises breathing has stopped, it sends out a signal for the airway muscles to contract again. This opens the airway and the sufferer normally wakes with a jolt. Scientists believe that the problem stems from the blood flow to the heart and the brain being affected by snoring causing constant interruptions to the breathing pattern.

In mild sleep apnoea, this can happen once every ten minutes. But in more severe cases, it means sleep can be disturbed every couple of minutes. The treatment for chronic sufferers usually involves sleeping with a mask that pumps air into the throat continuously throughout the night.

But tens of thousands of sufferers are thought to go untreated, and the latest study suggests that the dangers to the heart and brain are greater than doctors previously thought. Chronic sufferers are often diagnosed and treated but moderate to heavy sufferers were seen to be at most risk as they are often undiagnosed and unaware.

As a consequence, they are now often recommended to wear simple oral appliances – ‘stop snoring mouth guards’ that reposition the jaw slightly and prevent snoring in almost all cases.

Although scientists think that the problem stems from the blood flow to the heart and brain being affected by constant breathing interruptions, it may also be due to the fact that heart rate and blood pressure are repeatedly jolted out of their naturally lower state during deep sleep.

Strokes hit 150,000 people every year, with 30,000 of them being fatal. Only cancer and heart disease kill more people.

The researchers said: ‘Patients who snore heavily or suffer from sleep apnoea will be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and death’. These comments are endorsed by The British Heart Foundation, whose spokesperson added, ‘For many people, it is linked to risk factors for your heart, such as obesity.’

John Redfern