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

Are these the top UK areas for snoring?

NHS Choices lists obesity as the first cause of snoring on their website; a noise that is caused by the vibration of the soft tissue in your head and neck as you breathe in. While you are asleep, the airways in your neck and head relax and narrow. It is thought the narrowing of the airways increases the speed at which you are breathing out, and it changes the air pressure in your airways. This causes the soft tissue to vibrate by sucking the sides of the airways in. It is something that we know will worsen over time.

As so few people like to admit that they snore, or may not know because they live alone, then many cases are undiagnosed and it is difficult to assess the number of total sufferers, although estimates are as high as 50% of men, and are only 10% lower for women – but fast catching up. So how can we obtain detailed information on this snoring epidemic; perhaps through the very accurate figures the Health Service has on obesity levels.

Obesity figures may show us the main areas in the UK for snoring, with some shocking new results defining that more than three-quarters of people in some areas are overweight or obese. This new league table of the country’s fattest towns and cities from Public Health England, has revealed in stark detail the extent of the country’s obesity problem detailing the fattest and thinnest parts of England – and perhaps the noisiest at nightime too.

Public Health Figures Highest and Lowest Proportions of People Who Are Overweight

Surprisingly some, such as Copeland in The Lake District, are in or near beautiful rural areas where one would think to find some of our fittest citizens. Meanwhile, the ‘thinnest local authorities’ include many in London, such as Kensington and Chelsea (45.9%) and Richmond upon Thames (47.6%). Nine of the top ten thinnest are in our capital city.

As we already know of the previously established close relationship between snoring and being overweight, it is more than likely that these incredibly startling obesity figures also reflect the pattern of snoring in the UK.

Public Health England have published the figures in a number of different ways that underline the clear regional pattern of the problem; something that could possibly highlight the key areas that the NHS should target for stop snoring solutions. This would be something that may well save many lives, and save the public purse a lot of money in the NHS budget.

A reason for the increase, along with changing lifestyle patterns and convenience/fast food, may also be that because snoring leaves you poorly rested and suffering from fatigue, that you are less likely to exercise and be active, so perpetuating the problem on a daily basis; the inactivity causing weight gain over a period of time.

The effects on our health are extraordinary with recent surging increases in diabetes and cardiovascular problems in particular as a result of this, both of which are life threatening and cost the NHS billions each year. Diabetes in particular is growing as a problem – one in 17 now have a diabetic problem. In 7 years the total has increased by one million to over 3.2 million sufferers, with an estimated 850,000 still undiagnosed.

£14 billion a year is spent by the NHS on diabetes – 10% of their total budget.

Stopping snoring and reducing weight at the same time can go a long way to reducing this amount and slashing the number of sufferers afflicted. The first is easy, and can be done with an inexpensive oral appliance overnight – the weight loss takes time and application.

John Redfern

How Chin Straps can help you to stop snoring

Snoring is becoming an issue that most people are facing everyday. In fact, recent research estimates that as many as 45% of men and approximately 30% of women are habitual snorers. Many cases are undiagnosed, or the individual simply refuses to accept that they snore, and have a problem.

Due to lifestyle factors such as increased weight, these figures are rapidly increasing. Although traditionally linked with middle age, the increase in obesity has identified snoring as an ‘all ages’ problem, and is highly prevalent in younger people, especially females, and also even in children.

There are various medically accepted ways to prevent snoring these tend to fall into three categories – two of which are both simple, and inexpensive, The third route, which is much more complex and only for very serious cases, is where the patient suffers from severe obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and requires the constant use of CPAP equipment (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). This is an appliance which supplies a continuous forced flow of oxygen throughout the night by using a small bedside electrical pump, linked to an oxygen supply tank, and delivering it under pressure by way of a face mask.

3 options to stop snoring

The other two methods employ much simpler and easier methods, which are far less intrusive, but are still highly effective with satisfaction levels of 98%. The options are to use either a chin strap, or a mouthpiece – both very similar to sports guards which we see worn regularly in sports such as Rugby.

Which stop snoring method do you need – a Mouthpiece or a Chin Strap?

These two items are totally different, but both work to stop you snoring in different ways, dependent upon why the problem exists in the first place. It is very important to identify which one you need as they work in totally different ways to solve very different causes of the same problem.

Chin straps are mostly appropriate for those who suffer from open-mouthed snoring and wrap around the jaw and head to prevent the mouth from falling open during sleep, encouraging nasal breathing and preventing snoring, whereas the mouthpiece helps you to bring your lower jaw forward slightly and by doing so it opens the airway.

The results for both are instantaneous and they are easily worn. Chinstraps essentially work the same way as a dental mouthpiece in that they position the jaw slightly forward in order to keep the airway more open but do so whilst closing the open mouth at the same time. Another benefit to the snorer is that it vastly reduces the problem of having a dry mouth due to open-mouthed snoring, which is a common problem for the snorer and most uncomfortable as a side effect.

One problem – two alternative solutions – but one happy outcome using whichever item is chosen.

By John Redfern

Women, Snoring and the Menopause

It’s not just middle-aged overweight men who wreck their other half’s sleep.

Women are equally affected.

I read with interest an article in The Daily Mail recently where a woman discovered her snoring could result in serious health issues if untreated. Whilst napping on a train last summer she was suddenly woken by the sound of a loud snore.

She opened her eyes to see her family looking shocked, before bursting into loud giggles as she came to and in time to see a smartly dressed businesswoman gather up her laptop and move down the carriage.

In that moment she realised she was the one who had been snoring. To make matters worse, they were in the Quiet Zone. Everyone would have heard. She had always hoped that she was naturally feminine and alluring even while sleeping.

However over the past ten years her partner had repeatedly said she snored – sometimes when napping, and sometimes in the night when her snores had often woken him.  She always thought he was joking and denied it.

shutterstock image_10825846

Tired businesswoman asleep at her desk

She had always attributed snoring to smoking, or being overweight and indulging in too much alcohol or fatty foods – none of which applied. Then she recalled that she had been suffering a lot from daytime fatigue over the recent years. She had wondered occasionally if I something was seriously wrong. But then, in more sensible moments, thought she was just tired because of having a busy lifestyle.

The drowsiness had happened in a wide variety of situations; at the computer screen, in the cinema, and in front of the TV. She had even nodded off while on the phone.  It also happened during conversations with her family. She once found her daughter stabbing her awake with a pencil during a discussion about impending A-level choices.

Then she discovered, whilst in hospital for an unrelated matter, that her snoring could result in some very serious health issues if untreated.

Snoring and unexplained daytime sleepiness – either on their own or combined – may amount to nothing. But the two of them, together with increasing weight, and being aged over 50 indicates that the problem is likely to be OSA – Obstructive Sleep Apnoea – essentially, interrupted breathing during sleep.

When we sleep, our airways naturally relax and narrow. With sleep apnoea, the muscles and soft tissues around the airways relax and collapse so much they cause a blockage to the airway – the snoring is caused by the air being forced through a narrower space.  But if the airway becomes completely blocked you can actually stop breathing for ten seconds or more until you gasp or choke. It’s then that the brain starts the breathing process again.

The long-term effects of obstructive sleep apnoea, if not treated, is frightening. It’s linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. It can also lead to weight gain, which can only make OSA worse.’

Being excessively tired as a result of having your sleep repeatedly disrupted as you stop breathing during the night carries risks, too. ‘There is some research that shows that drivers who have OSA are six times more likely to have road accidents than those who don’t,’ says Professor Williams.

Yet the condition does not always get picked up as quickly as it should. Medical professionals believe 80 per cent of people with the condition are undiagnosed, many of them women, who are very reluctant, like the example described earlier, to admit that they snore.

John Redfern