Snoring & Sleep – Common Myths And Facts

Snoring is a common problem, especially among men, but it isn’t harmful

Although snoring may be harmless for most people, it can be a symptom of a life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnoea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness.

You can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you get

Sleep deprivation is linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behaviour, decreased productivity and safety issues in the home, on the job and on the road.

Teens who fall asleep in class have bad habits and are lazy

Teenagers need more sleep than adults, but their internal biological clocks also keep them awake later at night and make them want to sleep later in the morning. That means many teens come to school too sleepy to learn.

Daytime sleepiness always means a person isn’t getting enough sleep

Excessive daytime sleepiness can occur even after getting enough sleep and can be a sign of a medical condition or sleep disorder. These problems can often be treated, and symptoms should be discussed with a physician.

The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need

Sleep experts recommend a range of seven to nine hours of sleep for adults of all ages. However, older people may wake more frequently through the night and may actually get less night-time sleep, so they may need to make a nap part of a daily routine.

Sleep apnoea occurs only in older, overweight, snoring men

Although the stereotypical description does fit people in the extreme end of the spectrum, we now know that even young, thin women that don’t snore can have significant obstructive sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea begins with jaw structure narrowing, and later involves obesity. It’s estimated that 90% of women with this condition are not diagnosed. Untreated, it can cause or aggravate weight gain, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

It’s healthy to sleep on your back

For some people, sleeping on your back is ideal, but many people naturally prefer to sleep only on their sides or stomachs. They must sleep in this position for a good reason: their tongues fall back due to gravity, and in deep sleep with added muscle relaxation, and they can stop breathing with frequent arousal. Dermatologists are always telling female patients not to sleep on their stomachs, to prevent facial wrinkles. But actually this will actually worsen wrinkles, since you won’t sleep well at all.

I know I don’t snore, or I know I don’t have apneoa. I feel fine

There’s no way of proving that you don’t snore or that don’t have sleep apnoea (where you stop breathing while sleeping) without undergoing a sleep study. Even bed partners can’t really tell. Most people do stop breathing once in a while. Also, if you don’t snore, you may not be breathing either. There are people who stop breathing 50 to 70 times every hour and feel absolutely normal. But they’re at increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

If I lose weight, I’ll cure myself of sleep apnoea

Sometimes. It’s definitely worth trying, but in general, it’s very difficult to lose weight if you have sleep apnoea. This is because poor sleep aggravates weight gain as well as to increase your appetite. Once you’re sleeping better, it’ll be easier to lose weight. This is the one ingredient with many dietary and weight loss programmes that’s missing or not stressed at all.

It’s not enough just to tell people to sleep more.

Snoring comes from the nose, so if I unclog my nose, my snoring will stop

Having a stuffy nose can definitely aggravate snoring and sleep apnoea, but in general, it’s not the cause. A recent study showed that undergoing nasal surgery for breathing problems cured sleep apnoea in only 10% of patients. Snoring vibrations typically come from the soft palate, which is aggravated by having a small jaw and the tongue falling back. It’s a complicated relationship between the nose, the soft palate and the tongue where other cures such as a dental mouthpiece will help more.

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By John Redfern