What Are The Health Problems Associated With Snoring/Sleep Apnea?

When a person stops breathing as they sleep, the blood oxygen levels fall.  This varies in severity but can lead to health problems.  In addition, the frequent waking during the night (whether you’re aware of it or not), stops you from getting good quality, prolonged deep sleep.

We’ve looked at the causes and symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea, and where snoring is undesirable for a bed partner or family, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems.  These include:

  • Changes in mood, such as depression.
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Memory problems
  • Morning headaches
  • Low libido and erectile dysfunction (impotence)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems including abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure.

Not everyone with these symptoms has sleep apnea but if you snore and have tried anti snore pillows and anti snore devices and they haven’t worked for you, it’s important to see your doctor to discuss it further.

How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea?

Your doctor or specialist will ask for special sleep tests to be done to find out if you have sleep apnea and at what level – mild, moderate or severe.  Sleep apnea happens when the sleeper stops breathing.  If it happens for about 10 seconds, more than 10 times each hour, this is described as ‘clinically significant’ and can affect your health.

  • Polysomnography (say ‘polly-som-nogg-raffy’) is a sleep test in a laboratory.  It’s not a conventional lab, but a room with a comfortable bed etc, and also video and sound equipment that records as you sleep.
  • You will also be asked about your symptoms and some questionnaires have been devised to grade these.
  • You may have a flexible tube inserted into the nose and throat to see what happens to the airways when you sleep.  This is, of course, done under sedation.

Your doctor will discuss the findings in these tests and help to guide you on the treatment that might be good for your condition.

Options for treatment are:

  1. Anti snore pillows and sleep apnea  pillows for mild sleep apnea
  2. Anti snore mouthpieces and devices such as CPAP (continuous positive airways pressure) machines
  3. Surgery

Elspeth Raisbeck

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