Stop Snoring with Compression Stockings
by: Susan Bilheimer
Results of a new study have opened the door to a simple, effective treatment for snoring and sleep apnea: compression stockings.
Researchers found that when snoring and sleep apnea sufferers wore compression stockings during their waking hours as well as at night, their sleep greatly improved. The stockings worn in the study were the same kind commonly used to treat leg swelling, circulatory problems, and varicose veins.
While snoring can be just a minor nuisance caused by such factors as allergies, sinus problems, or being overweight, Dr. Salim Dib, chief of neurology at University of Miami Hospital’s Sleep Division, says, “Snoring is often a sign of a more serious problem, like obstructive sleep apnea.”
The Association for Respiratory Care estimates 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder in which the throat muscles collapse during sleep. As the passageway narrows, breathing becomes increasingly restricted and may even stop for 10 seconds at a time. Fortunately, when oxygen is reduced, brain signals jostle the sleeper and normal breathing resumes. Those afflicted can experience five, 10, or even hundreds of episodes a night.
Apnea is a serious health issue that can lead to heart problems, diabetes, and stroke. In addition, the disturbed sleep caused by apnea means that sufferers are not getting the deep rest they need, which can dramatically affect daytime functioning.
Until now, the gold standard of treatment for sleep apnea has been nightly use of a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). However, many patients find wearing the necessary mask uncomfortable. Some find it so annoying that they refuse to wear it, which can expose them to life threatening health problems.
That’s where compression stockings enter the picture. Researchers at the University of Brescia, Italy, recently found that sleep apnea sufferers who wore the stockings for a week had dramatically fewer apnea episodes and less snoring.
“The extent to which simply wearing compression stockings reduced apnea in just one week was not expected,” said lead researcher Dr. Stefania Redolfi.
Dr. Dib agrees that this is “an interesting out-of-the-box approach. It is a promising adjunct form of therapy to CPAP in that patient population. But further studies are needed.”
Researchers don’t know exactly why compression stockings lessen snoring, but they believe it is be related to the fact that the stockings caused less fluid to accumulate in neck tissue at night.
Compression stockings do not work for every snorer, but they cost only about $20 and it can’t hurt to try them – and the person sleeping next to you may thank you.
When to See Your Doctor
If you experience any of the following symptoms along with snoring, have your doctor evaluate you for sleep apnea:
1. Heavy snoring in all sleep positions
2. Waking up gasping or choking
3. Not feeling rested when you wake
4. High blood pressure
5. Falling asleep during daytime tasks
6. Morning headaches
Tips to Reduce Snoring
1. Lose weight – excess pounds, especially around the neck, increase pressure on throat muscles when laying down.
1. Avoid alcohol at bedtime – drinking can affect the throat’s muscle tone.
2. Don’t smoke – smokers are at increased risk for sleep apnea.
3. Use a humidifier in your bedroom – dry air can irritate the throat, causing you to snore.
4. Sleep on your side – doing so helps keep the throat open. TIP: To prevent rolling onto your back, place a tennis ball inside a pillow and put the pillow behind your back when you sleep.