Dr. Michael Montgomery
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How big a problem is snoring?

May 10, 2012

Besides the nuisance to your bed partner, snoring has some very considerable consequences to our bodies as well.  Take the case of Mr. Y, a seemingly healthy 40 year old flight attendant.  Although he snored, he was fit and active, but one day he had a heart attack.   His doctors told him it was caused by sleep apnea.  He had never heard of sleep apnea, but he had all the symptoms–snoring, slightly overweight, large neck, and daytime tiredness.  His snoring (50% of people who snore have sleep apnea) was the result of an obstruction in his throat or nose which caused partial collapse of the airway while he slept.  Unfortunately, in those with sleep apnea, this partial collapse periodically becomes a total obstruction resulting in no passage of air into or out of the lungs.  If this occurred once or twice a nite, it would be of minimal concern, but in Mr. Y’s case, it occurred 35 or more times per hour and would last from 30-40 or more seconds each time.  Imagine holding your breath 30-40 seconds every 2 minutes for 6-8 hours.   These multiple obstructive events caused the life-giving oxygen levels  in his blood to drop from 94% to as low as 74%.  Healthy people start to become non-healthy very quickly when blood oxygen levels drop to less than 90% and in Mr. Y case it was occurring more than 35 times per hour while he was sleeping.  His heart finally reacted very poorly to this severe lowering of his oxygen–it was being suffocated.  Other organs could also have reacted to this oxygen deprivation–a stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure have also been attributed to sleep apnea.  Fortunately, his doctor diagnosed his problem and prescribed weight loss and nightly use of a CPAP machine to manage his problem.  He was able to return to normal work duties.  In other words, snoring issues need to be addressed.

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