How snoring can hurt your golf game

If you're among the millions of Americans who love to golf, I've got an easy way to boost your score and beat your buddies -- and you don't have to pay for expensive lessons, learn to cheat or change your grip.

You just have to get a grip of a different kind -- get a grip on your symptoms of sleep apnea.

That's the condition where you snore loudly, and then stop breathing, sometimes for a minute or more at a time. It's been linked to everything from dementia to heart disease to death.

But for golfers, symptoms of sleep apnea come with a risk that might be even worse: It could cause you to play so bad that your handicap rises faster than the greens fees.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that improving your apnea could also improve your handicap by as much as a third, according to a new study.

In this study, golfers with apnea were given CPAP devices -- oxygen masks that keep your airways open at night -- and then tracked for six months.

On average, their handicaps improved by 11 percent. But better golfers had even bigger improvements, with their handicaps falling by an average of 32 percent, according to the study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Not bad for simply sleeping better.

The trick with apnea is figuring out who has it -- because most of the people struggling with symptoms of sleep apnea this disease don't actually they have it.

All they know is that they're tired and cranky, even after a full night's sleep.

Some of the warning signs to watch for, besides being tired and cranky, include waking up with a headache and/or a sore throat. You could also ask your spouse to keep watch over you to see if you stop breathing.

And if you suspect you might have this condition, a night in a sleep clinic might be in order.

Your doctor may recommend CPAP, but those devices aren't very comfortable to sleep with. The better solution is to lose some weight. Apnea is usually caused by obesity, and weight loss will almost always ease the condition or even cure it completely.