2018-03-25 / Insight

Snoring isn’t just annoying, it can be life threatening

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER — For your amusement, Pinterest offers up “28 best Snoring Videos,” and snoring has been a source of mirth in everything from “Gray’s Anatomy,” to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

And while 20 to 30 percent of women snore and 40 to 50 percent of men snore, leaving close to 60 percent of the population annoyed with a partner who snores, it’s no joke.

Lila Smith, who runs The Sleep Center at McLaren Lapeer Region on Suncrest Drive, said snoring can be a sign of something more serious that can actually shorten your life.

A recent study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that snoring can significantly increase your odds of developing early dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Smith said it can also contribute to high blood pressure and obesity.

Smith noted that truck drivers who have a BMI (body mass index) over 30 and a neck size greater than 17 inches are required to get a sleep study before renewing their CDLs.

BMI is a measure of body fat that is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by the square of their height. A BMI of 30 is considered obese.

The problem with snoring, other than for your partner, is not the sound, but what it represents.

Some researchers suggest between 50 and 80 percent of people who snore suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious condition in which a person’s breathing is obstructed, causing them to wake up in order to start breathing again.

“People should take this seriously,” said Smith, a registered respiratory therapist, who’s been working with sleep disorders for the past two decades.

McLaren’s Sleep Center sees between 60 and 80 patients a week and 90 percent of them come because of snoring.

Smith said about 20 percent of those patients are referred by their family physician and the rest come after a visit with a board-certified sleep specialist.

The center has six rooms, though only four are currently in use, and they look more like windowless motel rooms than hospital rooms.

Smith said a sleep study can involve one or two nights at the center. Patients typically arrive between 8 and 9 p.m., spend an hour-and-ahalf getting ready with a technician, go to sleep and are on their way home between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.

The center is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Hospital Joint Commission and has five board-certified sleep specialists on staff.

While many people snore, Smith said most people don’t know they do or how disruptive it can be to others. “My 35-year-old daughter,” Smith said, “didn’t realize everybody in her family was complaining.”

Following a sleep study, Smith’s daughter was fitted for a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine and once she got used to it, everyone was happy.

Not everyone needs a CPAP machine. For some, Smith said, snoring can be cured with nasal strips and a nasal flush; for others it may require a trip to an allergist, and for still others removing tonsils and adenoids may solve the problem.

Depending on the procedures required, Smith said it can take as long as three months to resolve a snoring problem following a person’s first doctors visit.

Things that don’t work, she said, are nearly all the gadgets found in ads in the back of waiting room magazines.

Sleep testing, said Smith, is generally considered an outpatient elective procedure, but most insurance programs cover it. However, she added, co-pays and deductibles vary widely.

Still, she said, anyone who finds themselves waking up randomly at night or has a partner who complains about their snoring, should have an honest conversation with their doctor.

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