A large proportion of people with sleep apnea also snore.
Wearing compression stockings might help people suffering from the common sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, claim researchers.
found sufferers who wore thigh-high stockings for a week cut their sleep problems by a third.
People with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) frequently wake in the night, which in turn leads to problems during the day, such as excess sleepiness.
It affects at least half a million Britons – often middle-aged, overweight men – causing snoring and frequent interruptions to breathing during sleep.
In OSA, the muscles in the airway collapse during sleep, which cuts off breathing for at least ten seconds before brain signals cause a contraction of the muscles which reopens the airway.
Not only does it disrupt sleep – for sufferers and those within earshot – and cause exhaustion, the condition appears to increase blood pressure and associated heart problems.
It can be treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, but this means wearing a mask all night, which many people find uncomfortable.
In the latest study, researchers from the University of Brescia, Italy, used full-length compression stockings – the kind used to prevent deep-vein thrombosis in air passengers – to regulate bloodflow through the legs.
They recruited 12 patients with vein problems that led to blood pooling in the lower legs during daytime which caused sleeping problems triggered by the excess fluid moving to the neck during the night.
Dr Stefania Redolfi, who led the research, said: ‘We found that in patients with chronic venous insufficiency, compression stockings reduced daytime fluid accumulation in the legs, which in turn reduced the amount of fluid flowing into the neck at night, thereby reducing the number of apneas by more than a third.’
The patients wore stockings from when they woke in the morning until they went to bed for a week, and then went a week without them. The results, in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, showed a 62 per cent reduction in fluid volume change in the legs overnight and a 36 per cent drop in the number of apnoeas per hour of sleep.
Dr Redolfi said: ‘The extent to which simply wearing compression stockings reduced apnea in just one week was not expected.
‘It would be very interesting to see whether the wearing of the stockings over longer periods would have an even greater effect.’
Dr Redolfi added that finding an alternative treatment to CPAP was a ‘high priority’ because many patients disliked wearing the face mask.
The mask enables air to be pumped into the nose during sleep to keep the passages open. Regular treatment restores daytime alertness, cutting the risk of traffic accidents by 83 per cent and the chance of heart and stroke problems by up to 40 per cent.
In 2008, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence backed the use of CPAP for sufferers with severe and moderate symptoms.
People with mild symptoms may also be eligible if they have not improved after lifestyle changes.
CPAP machines cost £250 to £500, although total cost of treatment including appointments with doctors and nurses ranges from £5,000 to £20,000 a year depending on the severity of symptoms.
Specialist compression stockings cost £20, but doctors say many users give up wearing them long-term because they find them too uncomfortable.
Via Daily Mail