Dr. Kalpana Nagpal, Senior Consultant & Robotic Surgeon, Department of ENT and Head & Neck Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals
Air pollution can have adverse impacts on our sleeping cycle and breathing process. It causes an increased risk of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and consequent sleep disturbances. Air pollution and winters can trigger choking spells in patients who are already suffering from sleep apnea.
If your city is facing a high pollution problem you are more likely to have shallow breathing. Air pollution can adversely affect upper airway. Increased inflammation can cause swelling of the tissues and can increase the intensity of snoring.
While most people do not pay attention to snoring as a health condition, it is a serious disorder called sleep apnea which is often associated with snoring.
Sleep apnea is caused by blocked upper airways which restrict the flow of oxygen into the body. While this blockage is caused by over-relaxation of the muscles of the upper airway, it is worsened by air particulate matter. These particulate matters are ten times smaller than dust and pollens that are usually 10 micro centimeters in diameter.
Also, people who have comorbidities like obesity, high BP, diabetes and are exposed to these pollutants are at risk of experiencing and developing sleep apnea
The Importance of treatment
Typically, there is at least one snorer in a family. One can have primary snoring or snoring associated with sleep apnea. Children with sleep-disordered breathing may have underlying enlarged adenoids or tonsils or clogged nose due to turbinate hypertrophy.
Children with SDB if not diagnosed on time can develop lipid abnormalities, hypertension, weight gain, and irritable behavior. Some may experience delayed growth. Sleep apnea in adults if diagnosed early can prevent cardiac disease, brain strokes, and cancers. Early treatment also reduces memory disturbances, irritability, and anger
What can be done?
All patients that snore are advised to go for a test called polysomnography. A full night monitoring of sleep would give a lot of information on the number of times that there are pauses in breathing and how much do the oxygen fall and the impact the heart and brain activity etc.
This test helps to draw numerous indices and interpretations that can help experts to identify the severity of sleep apnea. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy) has been the gold standard treatment for patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) for years.
Over the years there have been technological advancements in sleep surgeries with the introduction of robot-assisted procedures that have had successful results. Patients for robot-assisted ENT surgeries are shortlisted on the basis of their BMI and PSG statistics.
Screening of sleep apnea is done most often in ENT clinics. Some patients come with an obvious history of snoring of breathlessness while sleeping. Other patients who are unaware of the condition or have been ignoring it are screened during preventive health checks. Hence it is very important to go for an annual whole-body screening.
Despite counseling patients very well about the detrimental effects of OSA people do not go for testing. A lot of young patients are suffering from strokes or going through major cardiac surgery. Snoring and sleep apnea could have been the underlying cause in a significant percentage of those patients.
Patients suffering from sleep apnea are unaware of the pauses in breathing during sleep. It is the spouse or parent who notices this. Sleep apneic may suffer road traffic accidents due to day time sleepiness.