Friday, October 19, 2012

Snoring Can Kill You


Yeah, I know--a dramatic title for a blog. However, the fact is that snoring can kill you.

We can live for three weeks without food. We can live for three days without water. We can only live for  a few minutes without oxygen.

 Apnea in Greek means without breath. Sleep apnea refers to breathing pauses that occur while sleeping. They typically last 10 to 20 seconds. It is not uncommon for this to occur hundreds of times each night. Most of us can clearly identify these individuals by observing them while they sleep. Snoring is very common in these patients.

Obstructed airway
Many hypoxic (low oxygen) episodes last for minutes at a time. Many people have numerous episodes each hour. It isn't uncommon to have more than 30 episodes each hour. This has reached epidemic proportions. At least one in six Americans suffer from sleep apnea.

Most people know that smoking is bad for you and can take an average eight years off the typical lifespan. Most people have no clue how bad sleep apnea can be. It can take approximately 14 years off a typical lifespan. This is significantly worse for your health than smoking!

There are two major reasons why sleep apnea is so detrimental to our health:

  • The first major reason is from a lack of oxygen. Our bodies need oxygen to survive. When our organs and target tissues are denied oxygen, they simply begin to die.
  • The second major reason is from never reaching deeper levels of sleep. These people are often aroused from deeper levels of sleep in a struggle to take an adequate breath. Reaching deeper levels of sleep and staying there is incredibly vital in the regeneration of numerous hormones, enzymes and other biochemicals. Newborns can require up to sixteen hours of sleep each night and adults between seven and eight hours. Unfortunately, many adults never get a single hour of the deeper levels of sleep.
The problems can be relatively mild such as feeling sleepy throughout the day, being less energetic, slow reflexes, poor concentration and erectile dysfunction. Chronic and frequent breath interruptions and sleep deprivation can have significant health implications. Some sequelae include an increased risk in accidents, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, obesity, ADHD, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, depression, gastroesophageal reflux, bruxism, chronic headaches, dementia, Alzheimer's disease and even birth disorders of infants in mothers suffering sleep apnea. Other social sequelae are also common such as a higher divorce rate and poor work performance. There are many more that we can add to this list.

The most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States are for the treatment of these medical issues. There is a better drug that could prevent some of these issues. That drug is simply oxygen from the air we breathe.

Now, does snoring indicate that someone is suffering from sleep apnea? Not necessarily. However, if the airway is obstructed enough to where the person snoring isn't getting an adequate amount of oxygen, we see how this can be very problematic.

To determine if someone is suffering from sleep apnea, it is necessary to conduct a sleep study. This is often performed in a clinical setting. Recently, devices have been developed to perform these tests at home where the person feels to be in a more natural setting. The results are then interpreted by a physician. The physician will then confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea or rule it out.

Appliance similar to a mouthguard
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure)

If a diagnosis of sleep apnea is confirmed, there are several treatment modalities. The most common treatment has been the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) device. This device is a mask-like machine that provides a constant air flow. Compliance with wearing the device can be challenging.

Oral appliance therapy has proven to be an effective treatment modality in recent years. They simply work by opening the airway with an oral appliance similar to an athletic mouthguard. Patients tend to be much more compliant with these devices and get almost immediate results. Patients often experience an immediate boost in mental and physical energy. There are many dentists with some expertise in this area.

Get some medical advice if you or someone you love suffers from this disorder. I can save their life!

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

1 comment: