Your partner's loud and persistent snoring may be annoying, but it should also be a cause for concern. It could be a symptom of sleep apnea, a breathing condition that can carry health risks.
Sleep apnea is marked by the repeated starting and stopping of breathing during sleep. Loud snoring is one sign of the condition but so is feeling tired after a full night's sleep. Someone with sleep apnea never really falls into a deep, restful sleep. They keep waking up every few seconds, even if they aren't fully conscious.
According to the Mayo Clinic there are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.
- Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with significantly elevated muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), leading to high blood pressure and potential cardiac events. Treatment can help clear up symptoms and may help prevent heart problems and other complications.
A new study, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found effective sleep apnea treatment can reverse harmful changes in brain stem activity linked to increased risk of heart disease. In particular, the researchers found the form of treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is effective in at reducing elevated MSNA, found in many people with OSA.
Six months of CPAP treatment resulted in a significant reduction in resting MSNA. The treatment involves a CPAP machine, which has three main parts. There is a mask that fits over the nose and mouth during sleep. The mask is connected to the machine by a tube. A motor in the machine blows air into the tube.
As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains it, sleep apnea causes the breathing airway to collapse, or become blocked during sleep. When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring. Just a small amount of pressure from the CPAP machine can prevent the airway from collapsing or becoming blocked.
Therapeutic equipment sales soaring
A sign of how widespread sleep apnea is can be found in sales figures for CPAP machines and other testing equipment. According to Research and Markets, the sleep apnea devices market is expected to be $3.8 billion this year, rising to $5.3 billion in 2020.
“Efforts by new and established players in the market have led to the development of a strong pipeline of products that are expected to better serve sleep apnea patients,” the company said in a report. “This rich pipeline of innovative products is likely to open an array of opportunities for the sleep apnea market.”
This year, therapeutic devices are forecast to account for the largest share in the market and grow at the highest rate. The home care settings segment is expected to account for the largest share of the sleep apnea devices market, by end users.
CPAP machines are in demand and can be expensive. The American Sleep Apnea Association operates a CPAP Assistance Program, seeking donated machines for those who can't afford to purchase one. You can find details about the program here.