Besides being annoying, loud snoring may seem relatively harmless. However, snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a disorder that interferes with breathing during sleep. These interruptions can cause someone to sleep poorly and wake up frequently throughout the night. This can cause restlessness and fatigue, but it can also lead to more serious problems.
People who suffer from sleep apnea can also experience headaches, depression or anxiety. The frequent drops in blood oxygen level caused by breathing disruptions during sleep can trigger the release of stress hormones, which can raise your heart rate and increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, heart failure and arrhythmias. Sleep apnea may also change the way your body uses energy, which in turn increases your risk for obesity and diabetes.
The goal of treating sleep apnea is to restore regular breathing during sleep and to relieve symptoms such as loud snoring and daytime sleepiness.
Here are a few things you can try to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Quit smoking – Cigarettes can irritate your airways and damage your lungs. Smoking makes the symptoms of sleep apnea worse.
- Lose weight – Being overweight is a risk factor for sleep apnea. Some people stop having sleep apnea once they return to a healthy weight. Exercise also helps reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.
- Try a different position – Sleeping on your side or your stomach can help keep your throat open. Some people also wear a mouthpiece, which adjusts the lower jaw and tongue to help keep airways open during sleep.
- Be mindful of medicine – Nasal sprays or allergy medicines help keep your nasal passages open at night so you can breathe easier. However, sleeping pills relax your throat and can make it more difficult to breathe.
Anyone can develop sleep apnea: women and men, as well as children. Although it is a common problem, many people don’t know they have it . Talk with your doctor if you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea. The doctor will complete an exam and any necessary tests, including a sleep study. While lifestyle changes can be helpful, the doctor may recommend breathing devices or surgery to treat moderate to severe sleep apnea.