How to Stop a Snoring Man
Half of adult men snore. Here are the common causes and cures.
But just because it's not noticed doesn't mean apnea isn't a problem.
Hypertension and diabetes have been linked to sleep apnea. Apnea symptoms can
include headaches and sleepiness throughout the day, and diminished alertness
on the job. The Institute of Medicine estimated last year that undiagnosed
sleep disorders cause 100,000 traffic accidents each year.
Equally serious is the damage that sleep apnea does to your heart, arteries
and metabolism. Strictly speaking, it isn't the oxygen depletion that does the
most damage. When the snorer briefly awakens and breaths, oxygen-depleted
tissues fill with oxygen. The pattern of depletion and re-oxygenation
stimulates the nervous system and releases chemicals that can damage tissue and
leave plaques in the blood vessels.
Not everyone who snores is apneic, says Strollo, who is also the chief of
the sleep medicine laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. But there's a
continuum between snoring and apnea, and if you snore for enough years, you can
become apneic. Sleep specialists define apnea by the number of times a person
wakes per hour -- five is often the number given -- but also by the degree of
Although good sleep is probably as important as good diet and exercise to
overall health, it's a latecomer to medicine. In 1956, C.S. Burwell, MD,
characterized sleep apnea as the "Pickwickian Syndrome" in honor of Joe, the
Fat Boy, a character in Dickens's Pickwick Papers who "goes on errands
fast asleep, and snores as he waits at table."
Doctors didn't get into the business of diagnosing the condition until the
1970s. Even now, only about 10% of primary physicians ask questions about
sleep, and as a result, an estimated 90% of sleep apnea goes undiagnosed and
The typical sleep apnea patient is an overweight, middle-aged man. Among men
with a more healthy physique, sleep apnea seems to occur disproportionately in
people of Asian descent, possibly because of the shape of their faces,
according to Collop.
Luckily, there is an effective therapy for sleep apnea. Unluckily, it's a
rather ungainly apparatus that makes the wearer look like a brain-damaged
hospital patient. It's called
CPAP, for continuous positive airway pressure, and it consists of an air
hose attached to a mask that's fastened around the head and blows air through