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Sleep apnea: Disorder that causes snoring

Health & Science
 A woman is woken up by a snoring partner. [Getty Images]

If you've been a victim of your partner's loud snoring and have often contemplated leaving them for this reason, then hold your horses. This is because your chances of ending up with another partner who snores are almost 50-50?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, about 45 per cent of adults snore occasionally and 25 per cent snore regularly. 

However, snoring should not be taken lightly as it may be a sign of a deeper issue.

Dr Samuel Munyi Nyagah an Ear and Nose (ENT) surgeon and a sleep specialist at the Sleep Diagnostics and Treatment Centre explains that snoring comes as a result of the narrowing of the airway or the pharynx or when breathing is partially obstructed.

“Anyone who snores should go through a medical examination, as such may be a condition called sleep apnea. Some people snore until they stop breathing for up to ten seconds,” Dr Nyagah says.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea include gasping for air during sleep, waking up with a dry mouth or morning headache, difficulty staying asleep (insomnia) and excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).

Though most patients who snore suffer apnea, other causes of snoring include cancers of the throat, due to tumors that block airways. Snoring also comes with age. Older people tend to snore more, as compared to young ones.

As people age, the larynx can become stiff, and the vocal folds can lose muscle tone, elasticity and moisture.

Surgery that cures snoring

Snoring is also triggered by obesity and alcohol which suppresses the muscular tone, and seductive medicines. 

Apart from snoring being a nuisance to others, it can cause sleep problems for the snorer. 

At the sleep clinic, patients with sleeping problems are admitted and their sleep patterns are monitored. A polysomnography monitors stages of sleep and cycles and identifies when sleep patterns are disrupted. A sleep endoscopy can also be done to determine if a patient needs surgery. 

Other sleep disorders monitored in the lab are restless leg movement, sleep talking, and teeth grinding.

Patients with apnea are advised to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which delivers sufficient air pressure, which keeps the upper airway passages open.

Other triggers of insomnia, according to Dr Edith Kamaru Kwobah, a Consultant Psychiatrist at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, are depression and anxiety.

Dr Kwobah says adults should have sufficient sleep, for normal functioning of the body.

“We encourage regular sleep of 7 to 8 hours, and if with challenges, individuals should seek help,” she says.

“As much as we invest in electronics, phones and clothing, so should we invest in sleep. Our bodies can only function when re-energised through a good sleep pattern,” the doctor advises.

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