Snoring causes couples stress

From Channel 7 Today Tonight January 30, 2013 Snoring causes couples stress

Snoring has been identified as one of greatest causes of stress in relationships, creating huge problems for sufferers and their partners.”

“Chronic snorers can have their sleep disrupted 80 times and hour. So what is it that causes half of all Australians to snore, and what can be done to stop it?”

Unfortunately the answer to this question didn’t come out in this segment.

The two male snorers featured in the show had sleep studies done, verifying they snored and had sleep apnoea – but there was no mention about having their habitual breathing pattern checked.

If it had been checked, this is probably what would have been found: the speed and volume of air they breathed were above the ‘physiological’ normal. Adults should breathe between 4 and 6 L of air per minute, awake and asleep. Men with sleep apnoea have been found to breathe 15 L per minute.

So what?  Well, it doesn’t cause a noticeable problem during the day but during sleep when the throat muscles are relaxed, fast high-volume breathing creates vibration and turbulence (snoring) and can draw the sides of the throat closer together obstructing airflow (apnoea). Not easy to do when breathing just 5 L of air per minute!

Unfortunately checking for this ‘over-breathing’ habit is not part of standard medical diagnosis for sleep-breathing disorders. Therefore, this fundamental cause of snoring for millions of sufferers is missed. Sure both these men ended up ‘solving’ their problems – one wearing a dental appliance to bed and the other a CPAP machine. But what would happen if these devices weren’t tolerated? Around 50% of people prescribed CPAP do not persist with it.

Few sleep apnoea sufferers know of the option of changing the way they breathe – through breathing retraining.

The Ch 7 interview quoted Dr Yee from the Woolcock Sleep Institute as saying breathing retraining is unproven. While it has not as yet been trialled specifically for sleep apnoea, breathing retraining has in fact been proven in many studies to ‘normalise’ dysfunctional breathing patterns. Breathing educators who are members of the Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health have clinical evidence of its effectiveness -based on over 11,000 sleep apnoea sufferers – and are very keen for research to be done. Sleep medicine researchers throughout Australia, including at the Woolcock Institute have been approached on several occasions to get a trial done. We wait, patiently……………..

In the meantime, the US federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality,  has issued a general advisory commending the efficacy of hyperventilation-reducing breathing retraining techniques.

By Tess Graham

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