Ravi, was involved in three road accidents, as he fell asleep while at the wheel. At that time nobody realized it, but Ravi was suffering from a problem. He would go to sleep anywhere, at any time, and snore so loudly that it would embarrass his family members. On one occasion he fell asleep while waiting for his turn at the doctors’. Going off to sleep is one thing, snoring your lungs out publicly is another. His wife said “His snoring could be heard three rooms away and because of this she slept in a different room for almost ten years”. Snoring, could be a factor of disharmony between couples. It acts as a serious marital problem and unless corrected.’
So what is snoring? Sleep Apnea, is the medical term used for snoring. Charles Dickens elaborately wrote about this in his book Pickwick Papers in 1836 and thus came about the term for snoring “The Pickwickian Syndrome”. Doctors explain snoring as the cessation of air flow in the nostril and mouth that lasts at least 10 seconds due to some obstruction in the air passage. Dr. Karmakar, an ENT specialist at Deendayal Hospital, Pune, says “Snoring is a sleep disorder and can lead to some serious problems. Due to the obstruction in the air passage there is insufficient oxygen supply to the lungs. This changes the pulmonary pressure in the lungs. The lungs try to suck in more air. In turn the heart pumps faster to cope. This puts pressure on the heart as it is doing more work. There is a negative pressure built in the chest as the heart is not getting sufficient oxygen while trying to keep up with the lungs. It starts pumping faster and this leads to enlargement of the heart. Due to these changes, ‘Arrhythmia’ (irregular beating of the heart) sets in. Arrhythmia leads to decrease in oxygen levels in the body. While sleeping the muscle tone of the various organs which are a part of the air passage relax. This narrows the air passage reducing the intake of air and results in a choking feeling.
Another disturbing fact is that because of the choking sensation the patient starts violently moving his arms and legs around,‘Thrashing’ trying to catch a gasp of breath. Not only does this physically harm the person sleeping next to him but if not awoken from this state, he/she can suffer serious brain damage and even death. “Ravi’s wife says”, Ravi would move his arms around so violently that it scared me to sleep next to him”.
In most cases patients suffering from this sleep disorder are characteristically overweight. Ravi was 120 kgs at the time he suffered from sleep disorder. Once the weight is brought under control the problem usually disappears. Some patients find relief in sleeping on one side. One such patient kept a cork ball on the bed so that as soon as he would turn on his back he would be forced to change his position. It is not advised to take sedatives as it would cause further complications. Sometimes prosthetics helps one to breathe better but the instruments themselves are very uncomfortable. Surgery is the ultimate solution to this problem. After the operation the patient is completely cured and doesn’t suffer from any more symptoms, ever.
Snoring is a common problem. But the next time you are told that it is uncomfortable to sleep next to you, its time for a visit to the doctor!