One thousand and one men, aged 35-65 years, were identified from the age-sex register of one group general practice. Over four years 900 men were visited at home and asked questions about symptoms potentially related to sleep apnoea and snoring. Height, weight, neck circumference, resting arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2), and spirometric values were also determined. All night oximetry was then performed at home and the tracing analysed for the number of dips in SaO2 of more than 4%. Subjects with more than five dips of 4% SaO2 or more per hour were invited for sleep laboratory polysomnography. Seventeen per cent of the men admitted to snoring "often." Multiple linear regression techniques identified and ranked neck circumference (r2 = 7.2%), cigarette consumption (r2 = 3.4%), and nasal stuffiness (r2 = 2%) as the only significant independent predictors of snoring. Together these account for at least a sixfold variation in the likelihood of being an "often" snorer. Forty six subjects (5%) had greater than 4% SaO2 dip rates of over five an hour and 31 of these had full sleep studies. Three subjects had clinically obvious and severe symptomatic obstructive sleep apnoea, giving a prevalence of three per 1001 men (0.3%; 95% confidence interval 0.07-0.9%). Eighteen men had obstructive sleep apnoea only when supine and in 10 the cause of the SaO2 dipping on the original home tracing was not elucidated. The greater than 4% SaO2 dip rates correlated with the history of snoring. Multiple linear regression techniques identified and ranked neck circumference (r2 = 7.9%), alcohol consumption (r2 = 3.7%), age (r2 = 1%) and obesity (r2 = 1%) as the only significant independent predictors of the rate of overnight hypoxic dipping. This study shows that snoring in this randomly selected population correlates best with neck size, smoking, and nasal stuffiness. Obstructive sleep apnoea, defined by nocturnal hypoxaemia, correlates best with neck size and alcohol, and less so with age and general obesity.
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