Snoring is funny right? You see it portrayed in the movies with the fun uncle sitting in a recliner after a big Thanksgiving dinner, snoring so loud you can’t hear the TV. It has become the butt of jokes in the family how no one can sleep because someone is snoring. While it can be comical, in reality this could be the sign of a major underlying problem.
If I said “Obstructive Sleep Apnea” what comes to mind? Well Obstructive Sleep Apnea is just a medical way of saying there is an obstruction that stops you from breathing when you sleep. It is the most common sleep disorder in the US. It tends to affect males (sorry guys), older individuals, and individuals who are obese. While there are other factors, these are the biggest offenders. So how do you know if you even have this? Well some of the signs are being very tired during the daytime. Everyone has that post lunch nap feeling, but for those with sleep apnea, falling asleep during daytime hours or boring parts of the day on a regular basis is more of a sign. If you wake up with a headache, this can be another sign, although this may be due to other problems as well. Last, but certainly not least, is snoring; this is one of the tell-tale signs of sleep apnea, although not all snoring is the same.
Snoring can be complicated, because while snoring is a large part of sleep apnea, just because you snore doesn’t mean you have it. So how can you tell? Well if you or someone you know tells you that you have loud snoring, followed by long periods of silence before loud snoring starts again, this could be a sign. What this actually indicates is that your body is going through periods of time actually not breathing at all! Your body realizes this and then “shocks” you into breathing again, causing these episodes. Long-term sleep apnea can lead to many other problems in your heart and lungs, which is why it is important to treat.
So, what can you do if you think you have sleep apnea? The best thing you can do is attempt to lose weight, cut down smoking and alcohol use (you knew a doctor would have to tell you that right?). Weight and obesity play a huge role in sleep apnea; with weight loss sometimes fixing the problem. The next step would be to see your primary doctor and tell them your symptoms and that you think you may have sleep apnea. They can refer you to a sleep specialist, who can actually watch your breathing during your sleep to see if you have episodes where you actually stop breathing, and give you further recommendations on steps to help treat it. If you feel you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea, please see your doctor to discuss more.
Dr. Philip T. Sobash completed his medical training at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. He is a second year internal medicine resident at WRHS. When not working he enjoys spending time with his black lab Dakota.