There is no cure for snoring, a condition that is rare among women but widespread among middle-aged and older men. It is an unusual condition because its real victim is generally seen not to be the snorer himself, but his bedmate, who may have to use earplugs or even move to another room to get some sleep. But now a University of Florida sleep researcher has reported on preliminary experiments which suggest that snorers may be victims as well. Dr. Jay Block, a Gainesville, Fla., professor of pulmonary medicine, says that his experiments have shown that snorers may lower their intelligence by reducing the oxygen flow to the brain.
Block, himself a chronic snorer, has linked heavy snoring to nocturnal hypoxemia—a reduced level of oxygen in the blood during sleep. Block says that his findings may simply be a coincidence, but he is now conducting a further experiment over the next two years, administering oxygen to sleeping snorers to determine whether it will improve their performance in intelligence tests. Said Block: “If they get smarter, we will know it is a direct link.”
In a one-year study conducted at the Gainesville Veterans Administration Hospital, Block gave three hours of intelligence tests to 46 healthy male snorers over the age of 30, then monitored their sleeping patterns for one night each. While most of the subjects had episodes of sleep apnea, the cessation of breathing during sleep, the 13 men whose breathing stopped most frequently—at least five times an hour—had the poorest intelligence quotients of the group. Block says that the tongues and relaxed muscles of snorers obstruct their airways, making them about 10 per cent more likely than nonsnorers to suffer from blood oxygen reduction.
Sleep researchers have not identified any anatomical difference that would make men more susceptible to snoring than women. They now suspect that male hormones could be the cause. But Block’s findings could make snoring men at least as interested in the search for a cure as their long-suffering bedmates.
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