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But snoring can also be an important sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that causes people to stop breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time.
"If it's loud, raspy snoring or interrupted by pauses in breathing, that's when we start to worry," Robbins said.
At least that's what one appreciates25 million Americanse936 million people worldwidesuffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with many more going undiagnosed.
"It can be very, very scary"
It's called "obstructive" sleep apnea because, unlike central sleep apnea — where the brain occasionally jumps around telling the body to breathe — it occurs due to an obstruction of the airway by weak, heavy, or relaxed soft tissue.
"You're trying to breathe air in and out with your stomach and chest, but you can't because of the obstruction in your upper airway. They're often unaware of this struggle, but it can be very, very scary for anyone watching," said sleep expert Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.
If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea carries a high risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or depression, even early deathAmerican Academy of Medicine do Sono.
How do you know that your snoring has become dangerous to your health? Sleep experts use a sleep questionnaire with an easy-to-understand acronym: STOP BANG.
S stands for snoring
Snoring is a key indicator, so it's a no-duh that tops the list of potential warning signs. But this isn't some quirky, whimsical snoring, and it's certainly not a snoring that anyone would describe as "cute."
If your partner's snoring can be heard even with the door closed, it's time to see a sleep specialist.
"We're talking loud, obnoxious snoring, the kind that would drown out conversations or be heard through closed doors," Dasgupta said.
"Some of the very descriptive bed partners of my obstructive sleep apnea patients describe their partners' snoring as if they were hearing a 'dying bear' or a scene from 'Jurassic Park,'" he added.
T stands for tired
Being very tired during the day is a key indicator of poor sleep. Combined with snoring, it can be a telltale symptom of sleep apnea.
"Daytime sleepiness is one of the strongest predictors of sleep apnea," Robbins said.
"Falling asleep whenever you have a moment -- sitting down at a movie theater for a break after lunch -- these are hallmark symptoms, along with fatigue and the house-crunching snoring," said Robbins, co-author of the book.Sleep for Success! Everything you need to know about sleep but are too tired to ask.
What does "observed" mean?
Many - if not most - people have no idea that they snore at night. They also don't know they stop breathing at night unless the blockage is so bad they wake up panting and choking.
"The O stands for Observed Apnea, and it's actually worse than just snoring," Dasgupta said. “An apnea means no airflow—no air going in and no air going out. you are not breathing The observed apnea is really a warning sign.”
Bed partners are often the key to detecting obstructive sleep apnea.
“If you notice that your partner stops breathing, snoring, coughing or wheezing, these are signs that snoring may not be normal and therefore deserves a professional's attention. sleep specialist,” Robbins said.
P means pressure - high blood pressure
Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure. Every time a person stops breathing for a few seconds, the body's sympathetic nervous system kicks in and increases blood pressure. The body also releases stress hormones called catecholamines, which can also increase blood pressure over time.
While high blood pressure by itself isn't a sign of a sleep disorder, it can be a warning sign when combined with other telltale signs. Fortunately, treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, such as B. continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP, not only help with sleep apnea, but also lower blood pressure.
B stands for IMC
Body mass index is a commonly used value to indicate weight.To measure BMIHealth care professionals use height and weight data to track weight changes in relation to height. Your weight is considered normal if your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. You're considered overweight if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9 - and a BMI of 30 or more indicates you're obese.
People who are obese or extremely obese — with a BMI of 35 or more — often suffer from obstructive sleep apnea because the extra weight in the mouth, tongue, and throat causes these soft tissues to collapse, making it difficult to breathe without snoring.
"Weight loss can be a big part of a doctor's recommendation for treating sleep apnea," Robbins said.
Obstructive sleep apnea is on the rise worldwide as obesity has reached epidemic proportions, but it wasn't as common before the 1970s, she added.
"In sleep medicine, we joke that Humpty Dumpty was one of the first cases of obstructive sleep apnea because he had a swollen abdomen and probably extra tissue around his soft palate. He was always in danger of falling asleep and falling off the wall," Robbins said.
“It was a lullaby and an anomaly at the time. But now, unfortunately, it's becoming more common with the rise in body mass index that we're seeing across the country and around the world," he added.
A stands for age
Muscle tone weakens with age, including in the soft palate and neck. So, being over 50 is another possible sign that your snoring could be or be turning into obstructive sleep apnea.
There is good news -studiesare beginning to discover that sleep apnea in older people is usually mild to moderate, with the most severe cases occurring at a younger age.
N is for the neck
A large neck circumference, whether due to obesity or genetics, is also a key indicator of possible obstructive sleep apnea.
"Now you don't want to be a maniac and start measuring your lover's neck at night," Dasgupta said. "The rule of thumb is always a collar size greater than 43 cm (17") for a male and greater than 16" (40.6 cm) for a female, putting you at higher risk for sleep apnea."
G stands for gender
You are a man? Unfortunately, this also increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.some of the reasonsIt could be that males have thicker tongues and carry more upper body fat than females, especially in the neck. Men also tend to have more "belly fat," which can make breathing difficult in general.
"However, We're definitely seeing a lot more obstructive sleep apnea in postmenopausal women," Dasgupta said.
High risk needs analysis
Now it's time to assess your risk. Give yourself a point for each "yes" answer. If you scored between 5 and 8, you are at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea and should be evaluated by a sleep specialist.
"Sleep tests are much, much easier to get these days than they were in the old days when you could only go to a sleep lab," Dasgupta said. "You don't have to be stuck in the lab with all those wires on you that look like Frankenstein. You can do a sleep test at home in your own bed, which is nice.”
But don't ignore your symptoms, as the negative health effects shouldn't be ignored, he saysAmerican Academy of Medicine do Sono: "Like a fire alarm, snoring is a warning of a hazard that requires your attention."
If your score is between 0 and 2, your risk is obviously low, so snoring is unlikely to pose a major threat to your health. A score of 3 to 4 puts you at moderate risk, but that doesn't mean you should ignore your symptoms, especially if you share a bed with a loved one, Dasgupta said.
"It's always good to be a good person, and when it comes to your bed partner, I think it's worth looking at," he said. "If your bed partner is woken up several times during the night by your snoring or is unable to sleep because of your snoring, then that bed partner is sleep deprived and it is not good for your health. So it's not always about you.”
The treatment of choice for sleep apnea is the use of continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. By forcing air into the lungs through a nasal mask, the device helps keep the airways clear at night.
Weight loss can significantly reduce or even eliminate obstructive sleep apnea because the loss of tissue mass in the mouth, tongue, and throat relieves pressure in the airways. Doctors may also prescribe an oral appliance designed to widen the airway by moving the tongue or jaw forward.
If anatomical problems such as nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or a septal deviation contribute to the apnea, surgery may be recommended.
Mild cases of sleep apnea may respond to "positional therapy," a fancy way of telling sleepers to lie on their side instead of their back while they sleep, which can improve airway flow and reduce snoring.
"I'm a big fan of simple home solutions like sewing tennis balls to the back of pajamas so people don't roll onto their backs," Dasgupta said.
"You can get even more creative by putting a bra on someone backwards and then putting tennis balls in the cups," suggested Robbins.