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Why do we snore? (Part 1).

Summary: Food & Health

When we were children, we used to be amazed at those who snored while sleeping. The sight and sounds made us muffle our laughter lest we disturb or anger the sleeping person. We did not know why people, especially men, made such funny noises in their sleep. We found it hilarious and we made competitions out of the noise. Those who produced the loudest and funniest sounds were winners. Of course, the boys won the prize for their performances every single time. But then, our mothers would reprimand and disperse us from the area of the scene. At that time, I thought that snoring was a harmless habit, but I could not understand why it happened. Little did I know that snoring is a symptom of a condition that can be more than harmless to health. Let us see together the cause or causes of this symptom, which can sometimes be a serious condition in the sufferer and very disturbing and annoying to the sleeping partner. Snoring generally afflicts a good section of the adult population, men, the obese and older citizens in particular. Occasionally, people who are physically exhausted, mentally stressed out, or emotionally troubled tend to snore or have nightmares. Knocked out, the person "sleeps like a log" on the back, breathing noisily from the mouth. The sleeping partner is usually the victim who has to endure the tumultuous sounds, resulting in sleepless nights if he or she does not plug their ears or take refuge in a separate room. A study indicated that the memory of the partner can become affected by the sound of snoring. Let us go into details to understand how snoring is generated and why it happens. There are two categories of snoring: The benign kind and the more critical one, sleep apnea. I shall start by giving descriptions of both types so that the sufferer and partner can evaluate the condition in order to get adequate help and medical treatment if needed. The snoring sound is uttered from the throat during inhalations and exhalations. It starts low as the person falls asleep and gradually rises rhythmically as he or she gets into deep sleep until a loud crescendo is reached. A toss or change in the head or body position usually interrupts the rhythm with a grunt. Snoring can happen even during short naps in the train or the airplane. Snoring starts as the person gets into deep sleep, especially if he is lying on the back with lips slightly separated. With breathing in and out, the gurgling sounds are caused by the vibrations generated by the relaxed pharynx, the airway between the palate and larynx in the throat. This area becomes lax with age or excess weight as the muscles lose elasticity. The person generally snores louder and more when he or she is tired, exhausted or overweight. Exhaustion can even trigger snoring in non-habitual snorers. Snoring strikes more men than it does women. Toddlers and children with enlarged adenoids snore very loudly as they are forced to breathe through their mouths. They need to be checked by a specialist for evaluation of the condition. As for sleep apnea sufferers, they are woken up with startling snorts frequently during the night, gasping for air. Because sleep apnea has grave consequences on health and may potentially be caused by more serious disorders, it should be look into seriously. It afflicts a smaller percentage of the population. It is not only characterized by loud snoring, snorting and interrupted breathing, but it also awakens the person with a choke, leaving the victim gasping for air and life. A sleep apnea sufferer, in fact, stops breathing as much as two whole minutes before he wakes up with a stifled sound and coughing. This happens due to the collapse of the palate soft tissue or the receding tongue, which obstructs the air passage. The loss of breath can reach up to 200 times during the night. With the interruption of breathing, oxygen in the blood plummets to dangerous levels, awakening the person frequently with a loud gasp. This can go on all night without the sufferer realizing the extent of danger to his or her life. However, the sleeping mate can get extremely alarmed, dreading recurrence of choking. Another rare condition is called central sleep apnea. Breathing is actually halted not due to blocked air passage, but because the diaphragm -- the flat muscle at the separation of the rib cage between upper ribs -- loses elasticity and does not expand enough to allow oxygen in the lungs. When the breast muscles stop functioning, no air is allowed in or out. This is a life-threatening condition that should not be neglected. Sleep apnea sufferers become battered with interrupted sleep, sleep loss and poor brain oxygenation, resulting in sleepiness, drowsiness and irritability the following day. Sleep deprivation and insufficient oxygen supply to the brain lead to diminished productivity, a decline in cognitive skills, and inadequate mental responses and physical reflexes. These are not the only side effects. Sleep and oxygen deprived individuals can be exposed to blood pressure higher than normal and an elevated risk of developing heart disease or developing strokes. Because of deprivation of restful sleep, some sufferers can succumb to emotional or depressive problems and irritability. With inadequate profound sleep, dreams do not occur. Sleep experts call that "dream deficit," which can lead to psychotic and emotional disorders. Decline in mental performance, including memory, is also a symptom. Next week inshallah, I shall pursue the subject and I shall suggest natural ways, which can reduce the acuteness of sleep apnea and snoring. Sleep apnea sufferers should seek professional help to correct the condition or at least minimize the risks of the disorder. I am sure many sleeping partners will appreciate these recommendations and their effects as they will be relieved of the annoying sounds. No more earplugs! N.B.: Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 7, 2011
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