My husband has always snored a lot, but recently he seems to stop breathing a few times every night. He’s always quite tired too – as am I! Could this be sleep apnoea?
At least half of all middle-aged men snore (women snore too but commonly start later, after menopause). The snorting, rattling sounds happen because soft tissue at the back of the mouth, nose or throat, which is slacker when we sleep, vibrates as the sleeper breathes. This is caused by a partial blockage that may be anywhere from the tip of the nose to the vocal cords.
There are three grades of severity for snoring. In grade one, a person snores infrequently and not very loudly; breathing is not affected. In grade two, the person snores more than three nights a week, and may have mild breathing difficulties. In grade three, a person snores every night so loudly it can be similar to the roar of a motorbike, according to sleep expert Marianne Davey of the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association (britishsnoring.co.uk). The snoring is often interrupted by pauses, gasps and choking.
Many grade three snorers have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which usually develops over many years. A person’s airways become partially, or totally, blocked for about ten seconds at a time, so they stop breathing and their brain automatically wakes them up.
Symptoms may include irritability, fatigue, anxiety or depression, morning headaches, forgetfulness, changes in mood or behaviour, and decreased libido.
OSA is relatively common. Around four per cent of middle-aged men in the UK and two per cent of middle-aged women have OSA . The onset is usually between 35 to 54 years, but it can occur at any age, including childhood.
There is no single cause. The main risk factors are ageing, a small, narrow airway, being overweight, fat around the neck, and certain structural features of the skull and face. Also drinking, smoking and taking recreational drugs contribute.
Only one in four people with OSA are diagnosed, and undiagnosed OSA is far more prevalent in women. Left untreated, OSA can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Diagnosis includes a sleep study. After a physical examination and tests by the GP, a patient may be asked to spend a night being monitored at a sleep centre, or given a monitoring device to wear at home while sleeping.
Mild cases usually respond to amending the diet, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption. Sleeping on your side rather than back may reduce symptoms. More serious cases may be offered a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) apparatus, which delivers compressed air via a mask over your nose while you sleep, preventing the airways from closing.
Don’t stay saddled with back pain
I love riding, but mucking out stables – I have three big horses – is a sure-fire way for my lower back to start twingeing. It’s only temporary but, golly, am I grateful for BlocPain spray while it’s giving me grief. I spray it on before mucking out, have a nice hot bath with magnesium flakes afterwards, then spray again. It works for gardening or any sort of temporary back attack. And don’t forget to stretch! Chiropractor Dominic Cheetham has a simple set of everyday stretches for the lower back on his website, sloanesquarechiropractors.com. BlocPain Spray Extra Strength, £11.95 for 118ml, Magnesium Oil Original Flakes, £9.95 for 1kg, both from Victoria Health, tel: 0800 3898 195, victoriahealth.com.
We all need a ray of sunshine
While short periods of sunbathing without protection in the summer (ten to 20 minutes daily depending on your skin type) are now recommended to replenish vitamin D levels, sunbeds are not a safe alternative, according to Cancer Research UK. Just like overdoing lying in the sun, sunbeds can cause skin-ageing, increase the risk of melanoma (skin cancer) and, used unwisely, have caused horrific burns. If you do yearn to be bronzed, self-tanning preps are the safest route.
Twinkling toes? Knot a problem
There’s a lot I never knew about shoelaces, particularly for trainers. Because ordinary laces loosen during the day, your foot tends to slide forward, which can lead to tired, sore, squashed feet. Enter a new concept! Xtenex laces are elasticated with lots of little knots, spaced to go between eyelets. Once they’re adjusted individually, they stay put permanently. Our tester says: ‘They’re great because you can take your shoes on and off without having to adjust the laces, but be careful not to do them up too tight initially.’ £8.99, from matchfitsports.co.uk.