Is Your Snoring a Warning Sign?

Ade Mardiyati | August 24, 2011

For as long as he can remember, Hector Siagian has been told that he snores when he sleeps. Loudly. The 41-year-old banker said his snoring got worse after he got married, and as he gained weight.

“It was so bad that my wife had to cover her ears with headphones during the first year of our marriage. But now that she’s used to it, she doesn’t do that anymore,” said Hector, who is up to 100 kilograms.

Three years ago, the father of three had a stroke. “It has been three years but it still affects me physically. Every time I feel tired, my body feels numb. I almost can’t lift anything with my hands because they feel so heavy,” he said.

But despite all his health problems, Hector doesn’t think they’re related to his snoring. “I think I only snore when I feel tired from work,” he said. “It also depends on my sleeping position. When I lie on my back, I snore. I’m sure if I can lose weight, I will stop snoring.”

Andreas Prasadja, a sleep doctor from the Sleep Disorder Clinic at Mitra Kemayoran Hospital in Central Jakarta, said many people don’t take sleep disorders seriously enough. These include obstructive sleep apnea, an ailment characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (or hypersomnia) and snoring.

“Most people believe you snore because you are exhausted during the day or did not have enough sleep the night before. It is not that simple,” he said.

Snoring is an early warning sign of a sleep disorder, he said, and people should pay particular attention to whether there are pauses, or apneas, in breathing while snoring. The pause is caused by a blockage of the airflow.

“This will cause interrupted sleep, also known as fragmented sleep,” Andreas said. “Most people who suffer from sleep apnea do not realize it because they are asleep, and each pause normally lasts for only a few seconds. They may be asleep for six or seven hours a night, but their sleep is actually interrupted.”

Andreas said sleep apnea carried both health and social risks. The disorder can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, brain damage, diabetes, depression, obesity and death.

“Socially, it is disturbing and causes an uncomfortable situation for other people. I have had a lot patients come to me and say their partner was complaining about their snoring,” he said. “During the day, they feel sleepy and weak, have difficulty concentrating and become very emotional and sensitive, which can sour their relationship with other people.”

But Andreas said most doctors here were not aware that such symptoms could be caused by sleep apnea.

“They tend to diagnose something else. Meanwhile in developed countries, where people have a better knowledge and understanding of sleep disorders, the first question a doctor will ask the patient is whether they sleep well at night,” said Andreas, who is one of Indonesia’s two sleep specialists. “This is a serious matter. We can’t ignore this.”

He also pointed out that sleep apnea can affect anyone — young and old, male or female.

“One of my patients is 6 years old and has the fourth-worst case of sleep apnea in our clinic. The child had 106 pauses every hour when sleeping,” he said.

To determine whether you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, Andreas recommended an overnight sleep study.

“In a sleep laboratory that has been set up to make you feel comfortable, your sleep is observed all night long,” he said. “Basically we monitor and record all physical activities while you are sleeping, including brainwave activity, breathing patterns, heart rate and eye movements.”

After obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed, the sleep specialist can recommend the proper treatment, Andreas said.

The most recommended and effective treatment is using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device, a mask that helps patients breathe while they are asleep.

In some cases, surgery may be required to reconstruct the breathing channel anatomy, Andreas said.

“But I would suggest using the CPAP first for anyone whose sleep apnea is more than 15 times per hour. It works most of the time,” he said.

Given that a sleep disorder can be a silent killer, Andreas said it was important for friends and partners to inform people who snore to be alert, because most people who suffer from the condition are unaware they have a problem.

“You could save their life,” he said.

Tips for a better night’s sleep:
Although the amount of sleep required differs from person to person, it is recommended that people get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
Avoid caffeine at least nine hours before going to bed.
Avoid working out three hours prior to going to bed.
Finish all your work at least an hour before you go to bed. Give your body and mind a break from work-related matters.

For more information and tips, follow @IDTidurSehat on Twitter.

link: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/health/is-your-snoring-a-warning-sign/461412

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