People who snore could be three times more likely to die from coronavirus if they are admitted to hospital, a study has revealed.

A review of 18 studies by scientists at the University of Warwick found that those suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea, which causes snoring and choking when the throat muscles relax and temporarily block the airway during sleep, are at greater risk from the virus.

The condition is most common in people suffering from diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure, which also increase their risk if they catch Covid-19.  

The review highlighted a study in Diabetologia on 1,300 diabetics and sleep apnoea sufferers that were hospitalised by coronavirus, showing they faced a 2.8 times greater risk of dying after spending seven days in hospital. 

As many as 1.5million people are thought to suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea in the UK, and 85 per cent of cases are said to be undiagnosed. In the US, 22 million people are estimated to suffer from the condition. 

Obstructive sleep apnoea can increase the risk of death from coronavirus, a study has concluded. Pictured is a stock image of a woman wearing a mask to stop the condition

Obstructive sleep apnoea can increase the risk of death from coronavirus, a study has concluded. Pictured is a stock image of a woman wearing a mask to stop the condition

Obstructive sleep apnoea can increase the risk of death from coronavirus, a study has concluded. Pictured is a stock image of a woman wearing a mask to stop the condition

The scientists said that further research into the impact of obstructive sleep apnoea on Covid-19 patients is needed.

But the experts, led by Dr Michelle Miller, admitted it ‘wouldn’t be surprising’ if they suffered a negative impact as obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with other conditions, such as obesity, already known to increase a patients’ risk from coronavirus. 

Dr Miller said: ‘This is a group of patients that should be more aware that obstructive sleep apnoea could be an additional risk if they get Covid-19.

‘Make sure you are compliant with your treatment and take as many precautions as you can to reduce your risk, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting tested as soon as you notice any symptoms.

‘Now more than ever is the time to follow your treatment plan as diligently as possible.’

Of the studies the experts examined, ten looked at obstructive sleep apnoea while eight investigated the risk of death from coronavirus. 

The scientists warned that an estimated 85 per cent of people with the condition are not diagnosed and said, if they are concerned, that they should contact their doctor.

The condition can repeatedly stop people from breathing during sleep when the throat muscles relax and cut off the air supply to the lungs, causing sufferers to snore loudly, awaken abruptly and suffer a dry mouth and sore throat.

It can be diagnosed by a doctor. Treatment includes being connected to a machine during sleep which maintains pressure in the airways.

The study was published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews.  

WHAT IS OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNOEA?

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when the walls of a person’s throat relax and narrow during sleep, blocking their airways.

This interrupts normal breathing, with symptoms including loud snoring, noisy and laboured breathing, and repeated episodes when breathing is interrupted by gasping and snorting. 

OSA affects between four and 10 per cent of people in the UK. In the US, around 22 million are affected.

During an episode, the lack of oxygen triggers a sufferer’s brain to pull them out of deep sleep so their airways reopen.

These repeated sleep interruptions can make the person very tired, with them often being unaware of what the problem is.

Risks for OSA include:

  • Being overweight – excess body fat increases the bulk of soft tissues in the neck
  • Being male 
  • Being 40 or over
  • Having a large neck
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Being in the menopause – hormonal changes cause the throat muscles to relax  

Treatment includes lifestyle changes, such as loosing weight, if necessary, and avoiding alcohol. 

In addition, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices prevent the airway closing by delivering a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask.

A mandibular advancement device (MAD) can also be used, which is like a gum-shield that holds the jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of the throat.

Untreated, OSA increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes. 

Source: NHS 

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