If you think snoring is just noise, think again. It can be a nightmare for your heart. Snoring caused by untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to congestive heart failure. This serious, chronic condition starts silently and can shorten your life.
The bad news for snorers? “Once there are changes in the heart, it is hard to reverse that back,” said Kavish Rohatgi, MD, CHI Health primary care provider. Nearly half of adults snore at least occasionally and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Some have the obstructive sleep apnea which stops breathing for 10 seconds at a time, multiple times a night. As a result, less oxygen gets into the bloodstream, causing the heart to work harder. A definitive diagnosis requires an overnight sleep study which records brain activity, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and more during your sleep.
Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea include an oral appliance or a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This is worn nightly to keep the airway open. CPAP is the most common treatment and is nearly 100 percent effective. For many, it’s a dream come true. “Most of the time patients say they have never felt so restful as they have after a night with CPAP,” Rohatgi said.
Snoring is caused by:
- Poor tongue and throat muscle tone (worse with alcohol or sleeping medications)
- Excessively bulky throat tissue (particularly when overweight)
- Long soft palate and/or uvula
- Obstructed nasal airways (due to colds/allergies)
- Deviated septum or nasal deformity
Signs you need a sleep study:
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue (falling asleep watching television/ while driving) despite getting a full night’s sleep
- Witnessed episodes of breath pauses during sleep
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- History of stroke
Tips for Light Snorers:
- Exercise to lose weight and build muscle tone.
- Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills and antihistamines before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol four hours before bed.
- Avoid heavy meals three hours before bed.
- Sleep on your side.
- Elevate head of bed four inches.
Not Your Dad’s CPAP
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines eliminate snoring by keeping airways open with a steady air pressure delivered via a mask or nose piece. The good news for users? CPAPs are now smaller, lighter and quieter. In fact, newer models are almost silent.
Tips for becoming a CPAP pro:
- Practice wearing the mask/ nose piece while awake.
- Make sure the fit is comfortable.
- Use nasal saline spray or the machine’s humidifier option for nose dryness.