Snoring affects more people than you'd think. Get the lowdown
Though more commonly associated with older and middle-aged men, about 30 per cent of adults in their 30s snore while they’re asleep. But though we mostly poke fun at snorers or find it a little irritating if we’re sleeping next to one, snoring can actually have a serious and harmful effect on your health. Dr Raymond Hamden, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert for Crowne Plaza Dubai, fills us in on the detrimental impact of snoring and what you can do to prevent it.
What makes some people more prone to snoring than others? People have different physical structures, and these are mostly inherited. Some people are born with obstructed breathing; it’s like people with hearing problems.
Does alcohol affect how much a person snores? First, alcohol acts as a depressant: it slows down parts of your body, including your brain’s response mechanism. Plus, when you’re asleep with lots of alcohol in your system, your muscles relax more than they would during normal, sober sleep. And it’s the relaxing effect that alcohol has on the back of your throat (the orophanyx) that can cause the blockage problem – the biggest cause of snoring. Drinking alcohol can make your muscles relax more than usual, causing your palate and tongue to vibrate.
Are people who are overweight more likely to snore? Yes, not because of the heaviness, but because of the fatigue associated with weight. When a person is carrying too much weight it creates fatigue, and this creates problems in the muscle process: when the muscles are tense, the breathing becomes tense too. So when a person is fatigued, it causes problems in sleep associated with snoring. This process can also stimulate appetite, which leads to more weight gain.
What’s the difference between heavy breathing and snoring? Heavy breathing is just a flow of air that is louder than most other people. When there is sleep apnea (abnormal pauses in breathing) or snoring, there is a constriction that causes the person to struggle to gain oxygen, so they wake up to continue a cycle of breathing. The real problem is that the person may never fully reach the four stages of sleep required for a restful night’s sleep.
What are the health risks of that? When a person suffers from insomnia, which is the definition for any kind of sleep disorder, it reduces alertness and physical relaxation – 60 per cent of medical problems are traced back to problems with insomnia. Most car accidents, factory accidents and industrial accidents are also traced back to insomnia. A person who has difficulty sleeping may have slower reactions.
If you sleep next to a partner who snores, are you facing the same risks? Without the physical snoring problem, yes.
What can partners of snorers do to get some peace? It depends on the individuals. They can let their partner know that snoring is a medical problem and something needs to be done to get it treated. They can also help the snorer find out why they snore, then reduce the possibility of snoring, rather than just saying ‘I’m going to sleep in another room’. There may be some serious medical issues related to snoring and it is best that these are addressed. In either case, regardless of whether medical problems are related to the snoring, these things must be ruled out.
Is it true that wearing flight socks in bed can reduce snoring? People come up with all kinds of things like this. To say that wearing socks will stop snoring gives the wrong impression. What is does is potentially reduce the fluid flow in the body. If you wear socks to work, for example, it can reduce the fluid in the legs during the day. This means there will be less fluid flow during the night in the neck area, so the circulation problems that cause blood pooling could cause some sleep problems. But wearing socks won’t necessarily stop snoring. What it does is reduce fluid flow in the body.
What else can people do to prevent snoring? Sleep posture correction can have positive effects. People sleeping on their back are more likely to snore, so sleeping on your side is better. There are various pillows and supports that can help. Also, it’s useful to learn correct breathing techniques: many people breathe through their mouth, so learning to breathe through the nose is very important. People often have to change their lifestyle, or the habits of their lifestyle, which involves getting rid of things such as smoking, excessive eating and alcohol. Caffeine can affect people as well. Exercise can help as it activates endorphins, which balance out serotonin levels. All these are very, very important, as well as weight loss – excess weight can be a problem. For more information on Dr Hamden’s workshops and clinics, see www.hridubai.com