Myth: Snoring is harmless
Fact: Snoring can indicate more serious health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The sound of snoring is often the subject of amusement; however, ask someone who shares a bed with a snorer and the joke isn’t funny at all. Being prevented from enjoying a good night’s sleep places incredible stress on relationships, forcing some couples to sleep in separate rooms, and others to contemplate smothering their oblivious snoring loved one with the nearest pillow. Of course it has also attracted an industry of snoring cures, such as nasal strips, sprays, mouth-guards and collars, most of which are ineffective. While the social and emotional costs are obvious, snoring can also hide serious health risks.
Snoring can indicate sleep apnoea: frequent sleep interruption due to falling oxygen levels in the blood. The sufferer can stop breathing for up to 10 seconds at time, and may wake hundreds of times a night. Also called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), the condition occurs because the throat closes during snoring and the person simply doesn’t get enough air. A person with OSA may not be aware of their frequent ‘waking’, and simply feel exhausted the next day and not know why.
Sleep apnoea also has other more dire effects on the circulatory, nervous and blood glucose regulatory systems. Studies have shown that people who suffer from OSA are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease: high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, abnormal heart beat, heart failure and stroke, and people with OSA are more likely to have insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. The good news is that treatment can reduce this risk. People with type 2 diabetes who have their OSA treated achieve better blood glucose control. Treatment is usually by Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) during sleep, administered with a machine by the bed and delivered via a nasal mask. Not the most elegant or comfortable solution, but totally worth it to obtain a healthy quota of shut-eye and minimise the metabolic damage. So while snoring can be annoying, it can also be serious and sufferers should seek medical advice.
How does eating to beat cholesterol and heart food fit into all this? Sleep apnoea is most common in people who are overweight or obese– typically middle aged men, but it happens to women too. Body fat stored around the neck makes it more difficult to breathe freely during sleep, and causes the airway to collapse more easily. It can also be made worse by smoking, alcohol or sleeping tablets. Losing weight is effective in reducing snoring. So don’t fall asleep at the wheel of your wellbeing, but smarten up your lifestyle and eating habits. For tips on weight loss and eating for a healthy heart, plus great recipes for the whole family, go to www.eattobeatcholesterol.com.au.
Heart Food and Eat to Beat Cholesterol are available from www.greatideas.net.au.