Many people snore (men and women) and this can have terrible effects on sleeping patterns, and marriages! But some people snore so badly it actually has a negative impact on their health, because they temporarily stop breathing while they are asleep. This is called sleep apnoea or sometimes referred to as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
People with sleep apnoea have a classic trio of symptoms - they snore very loudly, but they also suffer with excessive daytime tiredness and morning headaches.
Other symptoms people also mentioned are poor concentration, irritability and even depression.
In sleep apnoea, the windpipe which allows the air to travel in and out of the lungs temporarily collapses while you are asleep. Breathing actually does stop for about 10 seconds and usually starts again with a loud snort. This occurs at least five times an hour, but can occur 30 times an hour in those severely affected. This results in a dreadful night's sleep but also starves the body of oxygen.
If you have these symptoms, go to your GP and discuss them. It is important to distinguish between bad snoring and sleep apnoea. In order to do this the doctor may arrange a "sleep study". This is performed in hospital and definitively measures the problem, and the oxygen levels.
People with sleep apnoea are offered treatment on the NHS and will be advised on lifestyle measures to take to ease the condition, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping tablets, and stopping smoking. Treatment involves wearing a device overnight to keep the windpipe open and ensure good oxygen levels.
Your doctor will also advise on whether or not it is safe for you to drive - exhausted sufferers of OSA have been known to fall asleep at the wheel.