Nearly 25 percent of Taiwan’s population, or about 6 million people, are suffering from sleep disorders, a potential risk to public health that has prompted the Taipei City Hospital’s Zhongxing Branch to establish a National Health Insurance (NHI)-covered sleep center.
The center was founded in March and comprises some of the hospital’s finest neurologists, pulmonologists, otolaryngologists, pediatricians and psychiatrists.
Zhongxing Branch neurologist Chen Wei-Chih (陳威志) said about 10 percent of his patients seek outpatient care due to sleep-related problems, with some having been sleep-deprived for a long time because of their partners’ snoring.
“Statistics have established a correlation between snoring, and age and gender. Approximately 20 percent of men between the ages of 30 and 35 snore, but only 5 percent of women in the same age range do,” Chen said.
“However, the figures surge to 60 and 40 percent for men and women respectively after they turn 60,” he said.
Chen said people who snore are more susceptible to developing sleep apnea, the incidence rates of which are 20 percent in women and 4 percent in men, according to a US study.
People who are obese or have a short neck also face a higher risk of having sleep apnea, as they are more prone to suffer obstruction of the airways, Chen added.
“A person with sleep apnea can stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer. I once treated a patient who experienced up to 105 pauses in breathing per hour of sleep, with the longest one lasting nearly 1 minute,” Chen said. “That meant he was not breathing for about 20 minutes per hour.”
People who snore frequently and suffer interrupted sleep for more than a year are advised to seek medical attention, Chen said.
“Sleep apnea is a silent killer that could lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and even cerebral strokes,” he said.
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