Is Snoring a Warning Signal of Something Worse?
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
This is one of Benjamin Franklin’s best-known quotes, and for good reason: Sleep is crucial for us proud-to-be-healthy Canadian men.
What’s particularly important is that proper breathing is key to a good night’s rest. Most men don’t think of snoring as a problem – it’s just something we do, right? But that “all-natural” sleep sound can sometimes be a symptom of a condition called obstructive sleep apnea.
Fortunately, there are a handful of simple things you can do to keep your breathing right at night, but first let’s give you the 4-1-1 on sleep apnea:
What’s sleep apnea?
The Greek word “apnea” means “without breath.” Sleep apnea happens when your tongue and throat relax too much, blocking your air canal. A surprising 1-in-20 men suffer from sleep apnea, and complications may include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and erectile dysfunction (gulp!).
Causes and symptoms:
There isn’t one specific thing that triggers sleep apnea, but those at greatest risk are overweight men aged 40-plus. A major symptom is extremely loud snoring, sometimes so loud that whoever shares your bed is thrown out of it! You could also be suffering from sleep apnea if you’re tired most days, if you’re getting up several times in the night to urinate, or if you find yourself waking up regularly with a dry mouth or headache. Click here for more signs of sleep apnea. Low testosterone (Low T) is often associated with sleep apnea, and patients with sleep apnea should be screened for low testosterone as well.
What to do about it:
If you think you may be experiencing sleep apnea, be sure to consult a doctor for testing. Here are a few easy tips you can work into your routine right now to avoid developing sleep apnea:
- Avoid alcohol at least two hours before going to bed.
- Only use sleeping pills if your doctor says it’s OK, as they can relax your throat muscles and slow your breathing even more than usual.
- Quit smoking. Check these 5 common signs that you’re ready to quit.
- Exercise! Walk around while you talk on the phone, or get off the bus a few blocks early. Exercise that combines brisk walking and weight training may help reduce the severity of sleep apnea.
American Sleep Apnea Association, Sleep Apnea Basics. Accessed Aug. 16, 2015. http://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apn
Sleep Apnea, Public Health Agency of Canada.Accessed Oct. 14, 2015. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/sleepapnea-apneesommeil/index-eng.php