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December 2008 return to the table of contents

When Snoring Can Literally Kill You

Snoring and sleep apnea are now recognized as significant causes of increased risk for many medical problems, including premature death from heart attack and stroke. 

In addition to accelerating cardiovascular disease, studies show that sleep apnea worsens diabetes, and increases numerous medical problems including high blood.

In one recent article, discussing research at the University of Wisconsin, medical specialists concluded that there is a fourfold increase in premature deaths in patients with untreated sleep apnea.

"Unfortunately, many people still think that snoring is a simple nuisance. This is definitely untrue," stated Dr. John Penek, Director of the Sleep Health Institute at Chilton Memorial Hospital in New Jersey.

 "Untreated sleep apnea is dangerous and often is characterized by intermittent snoring with no other symptoms," he said.

The Sleep Health Institute is a comprehensive sleep disorders center, and is staffed by experienced sleep professionals and technicians. Individuals interested in participating in a free sleep screening are urged to call the center at (973) 831-5351.

Chilton Memorial Hospital is a fully accredited, 256-bed, acute-care, community hospital.  The Hospital is located at 97 West Parkway in Pompton Plains, NJ 07444. For more information about Chilton Memorial Hospital's facilities and services, or to find a doctor by name, specialty, or location, please visit the Hospital's website at or call 1-888-CHILTON.

Another new study has shown that obstructive sleep apnea could lead to more nighttime heart attacks than daytime heart attacks. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a problem in which the tissues at the back of the throat collapse temporarily during sleep resulting in the upper airways becoming partially or completely blocked causing interrupted breathing several times per night. The treatment can involve the use of a special breathing device that alleviates the blockage by pushing air into the throat.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study recommends that people who suffer heart attacks sleeping at night be screened for obstructive sleep apnea.

Dr. Virend K. Somers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues studied 92 heart attack patients who underwent overnight sleep tests 2-3 weeks post their heart attack and OSA was identified in 64 or 70 %. The frequency of heart attacks was higher in OSA patients from midnight to 6 am, while patients who do not have OSA suffer maximum attacks between 6 am to noon.

Somers' group concludes that the blood pressure, nerve, and hormonal changes wrought by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) could lead to blockage of the coronary arteries and heart attack. These findings further suggest that nighttime heart attacks may be the reason for the increased likelihood of nighttime sudden death that has been reported in OSA patients.

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