Special Report: Snoring Dangers
Updated: Wednesday, February 20 2013, 09:31 AM EST
Snoring isn't just annoying and embarrassing, it's also potentially deadly.
As News 13's Jay Siltzer explains in this special "Health Alert", improper breathing while sleeping may be taking years off your life.
Dr. Angela Connaughton, Western Carolina Pulmonary, "it can be a sign that someone may have sleep apnea."
Sleep apnea in itself indicates you may be at risk for other problems... Heart problems, high blood pressure, and risk of early stroke to name a few.
A sleep study at Medwest Harris in Sylva determined Lou Ellen Hawk has sleep apnea.
Overnight monitoring of brain waves and vital signs indicated she woke up repeatedly gasping for breaths without reaching restful, dream sleep.
Blowing air into her throat to keep the airway open provided her with restorative sleep for the first time in years, all because of the C-Pap machine.
Lou Ellen Hawk, "I have much more energy; I don't snore anymore. It's made a big difference."
But people who sometimes don't adjust well to the mask and remain sleep deprived put themselves and others at greater risk:
Jodie Wade, FNP sleep specialist, "you don't plan to fall asleep at the wheel ever. The sleep come sober because the brain needs sleep. If a person is not getting the proper sleep when they need it, it's easy for the brain to cut off and go into sleep in the daytime."
"Getting caught in that viscous cycle of feeling tired and not sleeping well, we work to devote energies to losing weight and exercising."
Some patients' snoring can be successfully treated with medication or a retainer-like dental device. Severe snoring, though, requires C-Pap.
So, who needs to be screened for a sleep study?
Experts say anyone who keeps a bed partner awake from snoring, wakes up gasping for air, or is more than 20% overweight.