Twenty years ago, snoring was considered nothing more than a nuisance. Now scientists have discovered that snoring is possibly linked to a very deadly sleeping disorder that is turning into a national epidemic.
"For as long as can be remembered, snoring has been the butt of jokes on the silver screen and on TV," says Dr. Nina Shapiro. "But snoring is not funny - and it's not something to be ashamed of."
Known as the "silent killer," sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. A consistent lack of quality sleep can also lead to accidents like falling asleep at the wheel.
So what exactly is sleep apnea? It is a period of time during sleep where you are not breathing. You are trying to breathe, but there is no air flow.
Some of the causes could be something simple, like the palate at the back of the throat being a bit "floppy." The palate is a muscle, so when you sleep that muscle becomes very relaxed and you are literally choking on the muscle.
Obesity also causes sleep apnea. When there is too much weight on your neck, the muscles are relaxed, creating a mass bearing down on the pipe that supplies air to your body.
If you snore, you could have sleep apnea. But not all snoring should raise a red flag. Light snoring with your air passages easily open is not a danger sign. But if you are gasping for breath while snoring, it could be something to see your doctor about. He or she will have a solution.
Click here to ask Dr. Shapiro as question.
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