One word we can use to describe Nigerians is our love for all things rich: Rich! We love our food rich with heavy consumption of starches.
For decades, one of those signs of wealth in our men was the growing mid-section that mostly occurs with middle age and we say, “Don’t you know he’s a ‘big man’?”.
For women as well, a robust size was considered a sign of good living. However, we know now that this is no longer true. Obesity is a leading cause of health issues in men and women and can equally be a risk factor for sleep disorders like ‘Obstructive sleep apnea’.
Sleep apnea occurs when one stops breathing multiple times during the night. One of the first sign that someone may be developing obstructive sleep apnea is loud snoring.
We may have had that experience, where one is visiting a family friend or relative and hear loud snoring from where you are sleeping, which may not even be close to where the snoring individual is.
This kind of snoring, which for years, we have thought was a normal sign of getting older, may actually be killing our men and women slowly. A recent US-led sleep heart health study shows that men in particular, are at risk for stroke, heart attack and poor health when they have the disease called Obstructive sleep apnea.
So how do we know if someone’s snoring is really the bad kind? Without testing them there’s no way to know for sure, but here are some signs to look for.
1) How loud is the snoring? Is it loud enough to wake up the whole house? In addition, Can you hear it even when you are not physically close to the person?
2) Does the person stop breathing in their sleep? This can be hard to assess but usually one will hear loud snoring followed by some silence and then an even louder return to snoring which can sound like a bit of a grunt or struggle.
3) Do they wake up feeling tired and fatigued or are they falling asleep during the day?
4) Is this person obese? When in doubt, check their Body Mass Index (BMI) which should be no greater than 30. You could also check their mid-section; in men, it should not be greater than 40 inches and in women nit greater than 35 inches. Another option would be to check their neck width- should not be greater than 17 inches in men.
5) Do they already have other health issues like hypertension?
Why does this all matter? The truth is that Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been called the ‘silent-killer’. It is not everybody that dies in their sleep that dies because “someone did Juju on them”.
In some ways, people can die because their sleep is not good and because they have Obstructive Sleep Apnea which causes them to stop breathing many times during the night.
When the breathing stops, there is a lack of oxygen and this can result in a heart attack. If you care and are concerned about any family friend or relative, it might be time to let them know that their loud snoring needs to be assessed by their doctor.
How to fix the problem?
1) Get tested!
In Nigeria, currently, there are very few sleep labs that one can get tested for Sleep Apnea but they do exist. Find out if you have the condition so that proper treatment can begin.
Treatment may include a combination of weight loss and using a machine during sleep that will get rid of those periods of ‘apnea’ when one stops breathing at night.
2) Lose weight
The most common cause of this disorder is being overweight or obese. It is recommended that one exercises 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week, starting with walking exercise.
If sedentary, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Also, cutting down on carbohydrates like fufu, rice etc and eating more fruits and vegetables will help.
Article written by Dr. Damilola Ajiboye.
Edited by Dr. Ngozi Onuoha. Copyright 2016, Health4Naija LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This site serves to provide information for Education. You should seek the attention of your Medical provider for any health matters.