Snoring may not just be a noisy nocturnal habit but a sign of sleep apnoea, a serious but treatable condition. Gemma Harrison offers some tips on what to look for and how to handle it.
Oh dear. Your husband’s pneumatic drill-like snoring has meant you’ve had to decamp to the spare bedroom yet again.
But when the spare bedroom has virtually become your own then you know the problem is more serious than you thought.
Snoring can affect a lot of people – particularly in middle age, but it could be a sign of sleep apnoea.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), the most common form, is when the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.
This can mean a bad night for both of you, and we all know how debilitating a lousy night’s sleep can be. Therefore, sleep apnoea can have a big impact on your quality of life.
Warning signs include loud snoring, noisy and laboured breathing and frequent short periods in which the sufferer often gasps or snorts.
Some sufferers can wake up in a night sweat or need to make frequent visits to the bathroom. Your husband’s disrupted sleep patterns might also make him moody and forgetful.
But for some people, the repercussions can be even worse.
Dr Stanley Wang, a consultant at the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Austin, Texas is quite clear on the dangers.
He says: “Sleep apnoea is common and affects up to one in ten women and one in four men.
“It has a lot of very serious effects. Untreated severe sleep apnoea is very dangerous for the heart.
“It can triple your chances of having a heart attack. A lot of patients have high blood pressure because of untreated sleep apnoea.
“The condition can raise your chances of having the terminal condition of congestive heart failure by about 58 per cent. We’re talking about the end of the cardiac lifespan being accelerated because of undiagnosed sleep apnoea.”
Therefore, make him see his doctor and don’t let him fob you off with the excuse that “it’s just snoring”.
You know it’s not just snoring because you turned on your smartphone recorder and placed it by his side and confronted him with it over the breakfast table, right?
Sure, the kids had a good snigger over their cornflakes and waffles but you are most definitely not amused. And, also, that extreme sleepiness and irritation he’s been showing isn’t just to do with being over 40, either.
Your doctor is likely to recommend a session at a sleep centre, where he can be assessed properly.
Until that can be organised, your doctor may well recommend a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) device, which is a mask-like gadget that will cover his nose and mouth and will provide a constant flow of air that helps to keep his breathing passages open.
But before seeing your doctor, here are a few tips your husband can do meantime: take more exercise, lose some weight, and establish a regular sleeping routine.
Once he’s hit the sack, try the following:
Avoiding sleeping on his back means his tongue is less likely to block his airway.
Sew a pocket on the back of his pyjama top, place a tennis ball inside and sew it up. He won’t be sleeping on his back, I guarantee.
Give him a spray to use to irrigate his nasal passages.
Make him gargle with water for five minutes, twice a day. Or he can hold his tongue between his teeth and swallow five times; five times a day.
Sources: NHS (UK), HelpGuide