Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries – When Snoring Is Dangerous

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Snoring is annoying, but is it more than that? Find out what this expert says.

Q. I am very concerned about my wife’s inability to get a good night’s sleep. She is tired all through the day and looks dreadful. She is pale and has developed these dark circles under her eyes. We go to bed at a reasonable hour (10 p.m. or so) and we try and walk for an hour every day for exercise and fresh air, but that doesn’t seem to help much. We are in our early 70s and we both snore – rather loudly I’m afraid. (My wife is worse than I am, although she might dispute this.) I’m wondering if there is something I should be doing to help her. Is this more than a nuisance? Our grown children suggest it could actually be a medical issue.

Bob, Kingston, Ont.

A. Your children are absolutely right. This is not just a nuisance, it’s a medical issue, according to Dr. Charles Samuels, Medical Director of the Calgary-based Centre for Sleep and Human Performance. He says your concern is well founded and obviously well-intentioned, but he also wants to know how your wife feels.

“If she’s not concerned, why isn’t she? Why doesn’t she care?”  He thinks it may have something to do with age. “We’re dealing with generational differences here,” says Dr. Samuels. “Seventy-year-olds tended to grow up in families where everybody snored and nobody did anything about it. Now we know there are consequences associated with snoring that are medically-related and people are finally doing something about it.”

Sleep disturbances, as they’re called, are increasingly being taken seriously by sufferers, as well as the medical community. It’s well documented that sleep is intimately connected to overall health, mood, performance and even weight, and that’s all given rise to what is being called sleep medicine.

“We know, for example, that sleep is linked to cardiovascular health,” explains Dr. Samuels. “Even cardiologists are making sure they address an individual’s sleep issues because they recognize that connection.”

And get ready for it. He says your own snoring likely needs to be assessed as well. The fact that you say your wife’s snoring is worse than yours “is absolutely ridiculous,” Dr. Samuel says. You have to admit he has a point. How can you possibly know how bad your snoring is? You’re asleep. The doctor says it all boils down to the fact that this is definitely an issue for you both – so both you and your wife need to take it seriously and look into it. Think of it as a call to action. One thing you know for sure, your kids will be relieved you did.

While some people may have some success with dental appliances and other interventions, Dr. Samuel believes a more comprehensive approach is called for. “The most important thing to understand is that sleep is a big issue and if there is a disturbance like you describe it needs to be brought to the attention of a family physician.”

Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.