Monday, November 02, 2009

Stop snoring - and cut your handicap!

By REBECCA SMITH, Medical Editor
Chronic snoring may impair your golf swing, researchers have found after players' handicaps improved by three strokes following treatment.
The study involved 12 golfers with severe sleep apnoea, a condition where oxygen flow is disrupted during sleep causing the sufferer to stop breathing for more than ten seconds at a time.
The condition causes extremely loud and heavy snoring, excessive sleepiness during the day and irritability due to tiredness.
Researchers at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey, America, recorded the golfers' handicap index and daytime sleepiness at the beginning of the trial and then began treating them with natal positive airway pressure.
The treatment involves wearing a mask at night which delivers a continuous supply of compressed air that prevents the throat from closing which is what causes the characteristic gasps and the episodes where breathing stops for a few seconds.
After 20 rounds of golf played over three to five months their handicap improved along with their sleepiness scores.
A dozen golfers without the treatment showed no improvement.
The findings were presented at Chest, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in San Diego, California.
Study author Dr Marc Benton, of the Atlantic Sleep and Pulmonary Associates, said: "More so than many sports, golf has a strong intellectual component, with on-course strategising, focus, and endurance being integral components to achieving good play.
"Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, all side effects which can negatively impact a person's ability to golf to the best of one's ability.
"As any golfer knows, when your ability to think clearly or make good decisions is compromised, the likelihood of playing your best is greatly diminished.
"Through treatment with NPAP, we can improve many cognitive metrics, such as attention span, memory, decision-making abilities, and frustration management, which may, in turn, positively affect a person's golf game."
The golfers with the best handicap to start with showed the greatest improvement, with drops from 9.2 to 6.3 on average and their sleep scores also improved from 10.8 to 2.8.
Co-author Neil Friedman said: "The drop in handicap among the better golfers probably reflected that the major limiting factor was not golf skill but cognitive compromise that improved when the sleep apnoea was treated."
In Britain 3.5 per cent of men are thought to have sleep apnoea along with 1.5 per cent of women. It can be associated with obesity and is most common in people over the age of 40.
Drivers with sleep apnoea are 15 times more likely to be involved in a car accident and they are required to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) on diagnosis. However licences will not be removed if treatment plans are complied with.
Sleep apnoea can increase the risk of high blood pressure which in turn raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Dr Benton said doctors try to persuade patients to comply with their treatment by emphasising the medical benefits, but he said concentrating on golf improvements may be more effective.
He said: "Providers typically attempt to maximise compliance with NPAP by promoting its medical benefits or warning patients of the risks involved in not being treated, but this approach does not always work.
"In the case of this study, the possibility of improving one's ability to play golf appears to have been a significant motivation to improve treatment compliance."



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