A report in the Daily Mail, of London, suggests the wearing of tight stockings or compression bandages during the day may help reduce snoring at night.
Compression stockings are widely used to treat varicose veins and prevent blood clots in the legs after surgery and during long-haul flights. According to the Daily Mail article, they are now being given to people with sleep apnoea, a major cause of snoring.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when the soft tissue in the throat collapses repeatedly at night, blocking air flow into the lungs. It triggers a pause in breathing for ten seconds or more before the brain prompts the muscles to reopen the airway. This process is accompanied by a loud snore that is then followed by a gasping and spluttering sound.
The condition increases the risk of heart failure, stroke and diabetes – and there are clear links to waking tiredness, daytime sleepiness, reduced cognitive ability, mood swings and depression, reduced libido and impotence ... and much more.
Risk factors include being overweight, having a large neck, being menopausal (hormonal changes can lead to throat muscles relaxing and the changing hormones can lead to fat deposits in areas which will exacerbate the problem) and taking sedatives such as sleeping pills or alcohol.
It’s thought the knee-length stockings will help reduce this tissue collapse by tackling fluid build-up in the body. The idea behind the stockings is that they prevent tissue fluid — a clear liquid that is a constitute of blood — pooling in the legs during the day.
Normally, the leg muscles help pump fluid back up to the body, but this flow is hampered in those with poor circulation or who are largely sedentary. Experts believe an accumulation of this fluid can flow back towards the head when the patient lies down at night. The fluid then collects around the throat, squeezing the tissue and triggering sleep apnoea.
In a new trial at Toronto University in Canada involving 50 patients, half will wear knee-length stockings during the day for two weeks and the other half will not.
Doctors will evaluate the overnight change in leg and neck fluid volumes, levels of daytime sleepiness and alertness, plus overall quality of life.
In an initial small study of 12 patients the stockings were found to reduce symptoms by a third.
Commenting on the research, Andrew Mc-Combe, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Frimley Park Hospital, Surrey, said: ‘This is an interesting idea and the hypothesis seems sensible, too.
“Of course, a lot of people with significant apnoea are overweight and not very mobile, so fluid accumulation through the day is more likely in this group. Whether the fluid moves to the neck at night when they are asleep is not known for sure, and clearly this idea is untested, hence the need for this study. I would be interested to see the outcome.
“If it is successful, then it is a simple manoeuvre to implement.”
Fingers crossed. If this study proves successful, it would add an important and inexpensive new dimension to the treatment of sleep disordered breathing conditions.
In the meantime, if you believe you or a loved one suffer from a sleep disorder, call us today on 1300 246 637 for a chat with a friendly sleep therapist, or click the button below to make an online enquiry.