Snoring is often overlooked as a contributor to poor sleep and related health problems. Picture: Thobeka Zazi Ndabula

QUESTION: I am at a loss. Lately I feel embarrassed due to comments from recent sexual partners.

Apparently I snore really badly and the volume is loud enough to wake others. As an eligible bachelor I am worried about this – can it be treated?

I am a 49-year-old male with a history of high blood pressure and asthma. Occasionally I wheeze at night and use a Venteze pump for relief. Sometimes I suffer from severe headaches. I rarely drink alcohol, about a pint every two months, and smoke about 10 cigarettes a day.

What do I do to stop the snoring? Generally there seems to be a link between my snoring and my workload, or when I am tired. Apparently my father had the same problem.

Please can you assist in any way.

 

ANSWER: SNORING is a nightmare for many households. The partners and sometimes even the children of snorers are adversely affected due to the sleep disruption in the home. And the victims of snoring suffer from increased daytime sleepiness as well as signs of high blood pressure and chronic headaches.

The vicious circle of allergy-related problems leading to blocked noses and post-nasal drips can be compounded by alcohol use and decreased muscle tone in the throat muscles. This can be made worse by obesity, leading to an obstructed airway. Remember that there are other contributing factors such as sleeping position and the natural shape or anatomy of the airway that can worsen matters.

From your question it is clear, with your history of asthma and a wheezing chest, that you could well suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis, a chronic condition associated with an overactive immune response to certain irritants or allergens.

In addition, remember that smoking often dries out the mucous membranes and causes thickening of secretions. This adds to the swollen narrowed airway.

People underestimate the importance of hydration, as this assists in mobilising dust particles and maintaining a healthy airway. We also forget that alcohol as well as caffeine can contribute to dehydration.

 

When is snoring dangerous or bad?

When conservative measures have been implemented and risk factors addressed, with little or no effect.

The health risks of snoring are excessive sleepiness and persistent headaches, as well as signs of blood pressure increases and inexplicable weight gain. These signs are important for identifying obstructive sleep apnoea.

For accurate diagnosis a sleep test is required which analyses your breathing and oxygen saturation rates as you sleep, indicating pauses or phases when you just “cease” to breathe for a period and oxygen delivery to the brain is then lowered.

 

Do you have obstructive sleep apnoea?

There are dedicated sleep clinics and laboratories that specialise in diagnosing sleep disorders and use accurate methods when monitoring sleep parameters. The specialists who usually refer patients are informed physicians, neurologists and ear, nose and throat specialists.

 

* Dr Darren Green, a trusted figure in the field of media medicine, is a University of Stellenbosch graduate who adds innovative spark to health and wellness issues.

He features on 567CapeTalk, and is a regular guest on SABC3 and the Expresso show. Dr Green works as an emergency medical practitioner at a leading Cape Town hospital and completed four years of training as a registrar in the specialisation of neurology.

If you’ve got medical problems, contact the doctor at [email protected], 021 930 0655 or Twitter @drdarrengreen. Catch him in Cape Town on 567 CapeTalk, most Fridays at 1.30pm.

The advice in this column does not replace a consultation and clinical evaluation with a doctor.

Cape Argus