Sleeping in a room with a snoring person is disturbing, especially if you’re a light sleeper. But when we encounter a snorer, do we simply ignore them or make fun of them? According to experts, nearly half of adults snore (both men and women, but more frequently men), and over 25 percent are said to be habitual snorers.
The real problem with snoring: a condition called sleep apnea
For people who are loud snorers, like my husband, sleeping in public places – such as a camping trip with friends or a plane ride – can be embarrassing. And most commonly, someone who sleeps with a snorer only takes notice of the disturbing noise and either gets irritated or just laughs about it (sometimes with others). What they don’t realize is the snoring person next to them could actually be suffering from a serious condition known as sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes episodes of halted breathing during sleep with loud snoring as one of its symptoms. If left untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and vehicular accidents due to daytime sleepiness. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from this condition, with 80 percent of cases undiagnosed.
While life-shortening in the long term, sleep apnea patients also suffer daily from its effects. My husband, diagnosed in 2017, often feels exhausted after waking up in the morning because of his fragmented sleep during the night. He sometimes falls asleep while driving and tends to have difficulty concentrating at work. What’s even worse are the psychological effects – the discomfort of being the center of gossip (“oh, he’s such a loud snorer!”) and the constant fear of dying while asleep.
Since sleep apnea is commonly linked to being overweight, patients usually have an unbalanced diet and a lack of physical exercise contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle. This, in general, means sleep apnea patients have difficulty enforcing self-discipline, a trait essential for the treatment of the condition. Compared to having an illness where you need to take medications and attend therapies on designated schedules, treating sleep apnea requires a strong sense of self-discipline – from the daily use of a CPAP machine combined with losing weight, to a complete lifestyle change to ensure there’s no chance the condition will recur.
Along with this difficulty comes frustration among patients – something we don’t know much about with people suffering from sleep apnea.
How we can help
If a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, some things we can do are to encourage them to lose weight and regularly use their CPAP machine, especially if a surgical procedure isn’t an option. If they haven’t yet been diagnosed and we hear them snoring, the first step is to have them checked by a doctor instead of ignoring the problem. They’ll probably thank us one day.
JK Legaspi is a freelance writer