It's common knowledge that snoring is both annoying and dangerous. Loud snoring is a sign of a much more serious sleep disorder - sleep apnea. A person suffering from sleep apnea stops breathing hundreds of times a night only to start again with a loud gasp.
This puts a strain on the entire body, and especially on the heart. It also decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood stream and in the brain.
Anyone can become a victim of sleep apnea, and there are several causes, including enlarged tonsils and adenoids or a deformed palate or uvula. It's also a common condition in overweight men. It has also been noted in pregnant women.
During pregnancy, the lack of oxygen can become a real problem for both mother and unborn child. A recent British sleep study probed the link between snoring, sleep apnea and small birth weight.
The study, conducted at City Hospital in Nottingham, England, used monitoring devices to measure oxygen levels in sleeping pregnant women. Does less oxygen during pregnancy result in a lower than normal birth weight?
Prof. Jim Thornton, a part of the study team has been interested in sleep apnea for many years. He tells of a patient who suffered from loud snoring and low blood oxygen levels - typical of sleep apnea.
"She went on to lose her baby," Thornton reports, "which her scans had shown to be very small."
He sites other cases where pregnant women have lost their babies during a severe asthma attack. Again, this indicates a link with low oxygen levels.
Women, however, have other complications with which to cope. Snoring is also associated with high blood pressure in pregnancy, and high blood pressure leads to a more serious problem known as pre-eclampsia. There are indications that partial obstruction of upper airway passages may be the cause of the nighttime increase in blood pressure that causes this serious condition.
There are, of course, other reasons for low birth weight. But if the problem is sleep apnea, and it is detected during the pregnancy, it can and should be treated. Put an end to growth restriction of the fetus and this, in turn, would result in a larger, healthier baby.
Published On: January 26, 2009