Snoring isn't merely an all-too-common annoyance, it may be the sign of a dangerous medical condition, says Dr. Robert J. Farney, medical director of the Intermountain Sleep Disorders Clinic at LDS Hospital.
"Snoring almost always indicates that there is an obstruction in the airway . . . People shouldn't take it lightly."Snoring may point to respiratory difficulties experienced during sleep. It is also a risk factor for stroke and high blood pressure.
"There's also an association with Type 2 diabetes and snoring," he added.
Farney and James M. Walker, director of the center, will answer questions about sleep disorders Saturday during the monthly Deseret News/Intermountain Health Care Hotline. The center is based at LDS Hospital, Eighth Avenue and C Street.
Snoring is just one field that has the attention of Farney and Walker. They work to correct all sorts of problems involving sleep.
"In the sleep business we look at not just sleep, but we look at sleep and wakefulness," Farney said.
"They're two sides of the same coin."
Three factors determine whether a person gets enough sleep of the right quality to ensure alertness during waking hours. According to Farney, they are:
- "How much sleep did you get the night before? Across the nation we are a sleep-deprived society because we sacrifice our sleep in trying to get a lot of other things done." These other things are both social functions and work.
- Is sleep in phase with natural biological rhythms? "We have pacemakers within our brains which regulate the activity of various physiological system. The rest/activity cycle is one of the fundamental ones," he said.
Sleep needs to occur in phase with these natural rhythms. If a person is trying to sleep in the daytime and stay up at night, the overall amount and quality of sleep may not be good. "If you sleep in the daytime you're not in phase with your normal biological rhythms," he said.
- Is there a disorder of the person's sleep that harms its continuity? Often a person isn't aware of a disorder, such as sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop for 10 seconds at a time or longer, resulting in ragged sleeping.
The result of any of these problems could be drowsiness during the day, and by itself that can be hazardous.
A drowsy person driving on a freeway is a danger to himself and others. The driver could fall asleep and lose control of the car.
The most common times for fatal car accidents like rollovers is when people are most likely to be sleepy: midnight to 4 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., he said.
Someone with trouble getting enough quality sleep may need to go to a sleep disorders clinic, he added. The critical questions are how long the problem has continued, whether the person is extremely sleepy during the daytime and whether there are clinical manifestations of sleep apnea syndrome.
If so, "then in most cases they should be seen by a sleep medicine specialist," he said. Treatment is available for many of the disorders.
Call hotline for sleep tips
Insonmia? Don't count sheep! Call the Deseret News/Intermountain Health Care Hotline for some tips that might help in getting better sleep.
James M. Walker, director of the Intermountain Sleep Disorders Center at LDS Hospital, and Dr. Robert J. Farney, medical director of the facility, will have advice that may help.
The experts will be answering toll-free telephone calls on Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The service, provided by the Desret News and IHC every month, can be reached by dialing 1-800-925-8177.