As many as half of adults snore nightly, and about half of those who snore nightly actually have obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when a person’s airways are obstructed during sleep, causing them to make the harsh sounds that many of us know all too well. Gravity pulls down on the muscles and tissue at the back of the throat, narrowing the airway and causing the person to snore.
The people who are at the most risk for snoring are males and people who are overweight. While many men snore, snoring is still a problem affecting both genders, although data shows that more men snore than women. As people age, the effects of snoring increase drastically, creating breathing problems for them during the night.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, (OSA) is a disease with a potential to end in fatality. Sleep Apnea occurs when the soft tissues of the neck, throat and tongue collapse during sleep, creating an obstruction in the airway of the body. Without a steady supply of oxygen, carbon dioxide rises to dangerous levels. Literally, the sleeper begins to suffocate. Several breathless minutes may pass until the brain snaps into survival mode. The brain fires a command to the body to regulate breathing. The response is a hallmark symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: the sleeper is jolted into breathing by their own powerful snore, or by the choking and gasping of the body in distress.
These episodes can happen many times each night. Occasionally the sleeper fully awakens, and gains insight into the daily exhaustion and chronic fatigue. Other times, the sleeper may never gain consciousness and sleep through repeated OSA episodes. People who remain unaware of their OSA are at high risk for developing serious complications. Sometimes the presence of OSA is detected immediately by the chronic fatigue experienced during the waking hours. However, when Obstructive Sleep Apnea continues each night, dangerous cumulative conditions can develop and shorten the sleeper’s life span by roughly 20 years.
Around sixty percent of people struggling with sleep apnea are overweight. The effects of mild obstructive sleep apnea have the ability to be cured if a patient loses enough weight, but that can be difficult if one is consistently tired or fatigued by sleep apnea. While being overweight can lead to sleep apnea, having sleep apnea can also lead to becoming overweight.
If left untreated, sleep apnea could lead to a range of diseases, such as: cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, an increased risk for different cancers, increased weight gain, thyroid problems, and type two diabetes. Sleep apnea can typically be diagnosed when the patient is monitored overnight in a designated sleep lab. Fortunately, now that technology is quickly progressing, patients have the ability to take the sleep test at home with the appropriate monitoring equipment.
OSA and Drowsy Driving:
OSA has the potential to be severe and even life threatening. In fact, a few studies have shown that the decrease in the typical OSA lifespan is around 20 years! The physical maladies associated with OSA have a simple way to cross over from your body to threaten the safety of others, and the rest of society at large. According to AAA reports, each year, an estimated 100,00 police reported accidents are the direct result of driver fatigue and drowsy driving. Some studies have even found that a person’s cognitive psychomotor skills to be as impaired after a day without sleep as with a BAC of 0.10%, which is actually higher than the legal limit for a DWI conviction in all US States.
What Are The Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving?
Some warnings signs you may experience that signify drowsiness while driving are:
- Lacking ability to recall the last few miles traveled
- Experiencing disconnected or wandering thoughts
- Having trouble focusing or keeping eyes open
- Feeling like your head is very heavy
- Drifting out of the driving lane, even onto the rumble strips
- Repeated yawning
- Accidentally tailgating other vehicles
- Ignoring traffic signs
One unfortunate side effect of snoring is the strain it can cause for your spouse or partner. Since sleep is such a vital part of our lives, preventing our partner from getting their sleep can cause a lot of friction in any relationship. This stress can manifest in the following ways:
- Your partner begins to notice feeling fatigued at work.
- Your spouse develops health problems due to lack of sleep.
- They begin to harbor resentment that you’re causing their lack of sleep.
- They may demand that you sleep in another room, or do it themselves.
- Even if politely ignoring it at first, insufficient sleep will have an affect on them.
Tips for Preserving Your Relationship as a Snorer
Being a snorer or someone with sleep apnea doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage or relationship. Here are some tips that can help you and your partner avoid conflict:
Respect their Need to Get a Full Night of Sleep
At a certain point, sleep is no longer a joking matter. The fact is, your partner needs quality sleep and their health and actions will suffer if they aren’t getting it. Therefore, it’s not fair to expect them to “tough it out” or “deal with” your snoring problem. Instead, if it’s necessary to sleep in another room to ensure you’re both getting rest, it’s worth the effort.
Treat the Problem As a Disease
It’s important that your partner knows that you’re not snoring and ruining their sleep on purpose. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder, and nightly snoring is one of its most prevalent symptoms. If both you and your partner can understand that sleep apnea is a disease that can be overcome, then it makes the problems seem more temporary and manageable.
Show That You’re Actively Trying to Improve
If your partner knows that you’re doing everything in your power to combat the symptoms of sleep apnea, then they’ll be more likely to sympathize with your disorder. This means seeking and using the treatments you’re given, exercising and staying in shape, and making an effort to reduce your obesity if that happens to be a factor.
Save Your Relationship by Getting the Treatment You Need
A snoring habit doesn’t have to take a toll on your most meaningful relationship. By simply getting the problem diagnosed and seeking treatment, you’re doing a lot to show your partner that you respect their need for sleep and are serious about making a complete recovery.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
The most common indication that a person may be suffering from OSA is the multiple awakenings throughout the course of the night. The patient will often wake up repeatedly gasping or choking as they try to catch their breath, and then promptly fall back asleep. People experiencing these apnea events often have no recollection of them, which is why many people never even know they have sleep apnea.
People diagnosed with sleep apnea may also experience night sweats, restless sleep, heartburn or other stomach issues, dry mouth or sore throat, and morning headaches. Other symptoms that may be attributed to OSA include: difficulty waking up, increased forgetfulness, decreased concentration, and becoming irritable, moody, or depressed.
There are other symptoms which manifest during sleep. Some of them may cause the patient to awaken and take notice of their OSA.
Symptoms such as:
- night sweats
- restless sleep
- an increased need to urinate during the night
- dry mouth or a sore throat
- and morning headaches or an increase in migraine
During the day, other symptoms manifest right before your eyes. Whether or not you mindfully notice them is another matter. However, it might be difficult not to notice these changes due to untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Symptoms such as:
- difficulty getting out of bed
- an increase in forgetfulness
- decreased ability to concentrate throughout the day
- becoming irritable and moody
- becoming depressed
- and noticeable sexual disfunction