There are many individuals out there who struggle to sleep peacefully at night. Not because they have sleeping disorders or insomnia but their partner has ‘sleep apnea.’ In the US, this condition has affected approximately 5-7% of the population. Sleep apnea is associated with many risk factors but luckily some treatments help you get rid of this disorder in a brief time.
If you have landed on this page looking for the right solution for sleep apnea, then you are in luck! By the end of this blog, you not only find the solution but also take away loads of information with you. Keep reading to know more!
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing stops and starts at unexpected intervals. There are several types of sleep apnea.
The main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: It is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the throat muscles relax.
- Central sleep apnea: It occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signal to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome: It is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. It occurs to someone who has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
What are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea:
It occurs when the muscle present in the back of your throat relaxes. When the muscle relaxes, the airway closes when you breathe in because of which you don’t get enough air, and the oxygen level in the body decreases. When your brain senses this difficulty in breathing, it briefly wakes you from sleep to reopen the airways. During this time, you might choke, gasp, or snort. This sleep pattern can repeat many times and can impair your restful sleep.
Central sleep apnea:
This less common form of sleep apnea occurs when breathing muscles do not receive any signal from the brain. During when, there won’t be any breathing for a short period and you wake up due to shortness of breath. Once you wake up, you may find it difficult to go back to sleep after that.
What are the Risk Factors of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Some of the factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea include:
Excess weight: Obesity increases the risk associated with sleep apnea. When a person is obese, fat deposits around his neck area and blocks the upper airway which in turn blocks your breathing.
Neck circumference: People with thicker necks will have narrower airways that block the free passage of air.
A narrowed airway: Conditions like tonsils and adenoids can enlarge and block the airway, this will occur especially in children. Additionally, people who have inherited a narrow throat will also suffer from sleep apnea.
Sex combat: It is scientifically proved that more men experience sleep apnea than women. However, women do experience sleep apnea in different ways. The risk is more if the woman is overweight and has already reached menopause.
Age: Age factor also plays a role in sleep apnea. It occurs significantly more in older adults than kids.
Family history: If you have parents or anyone in your family having a history of sleep apnea, then you are more likely to inherit from them.
Use of alcohol, sedatives, and tranquilizers: These substances can worsen your condition by relaxing your muscles.
Smoking: People who smoke are 3 times more likely to have sleep apnea than people who don’t. Smoking increases fluid retention and inflammation in the upper airway.
Nasal congestion: Nasal congestion occurs due to allergies or anatomical problems People with nasal congestion are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
Medical conditions: Conditions such as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Hormonal disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome, prior stroke, chronic lung disease such as asthma can also increase the risk.
Risk Factors Associated with Central Sleep Apnea
Age: Middle-aged and older people are at higher risk of sleep apnea.
Sex: Central sleep apnea can be found in men than women.
Heart disorders: Heart disorders like congestive heart failure increase the risk.
Usage of narcotic pain medications: Opioid medications such as methadone will increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
Stroke: Stroke can increase the risk of central sleep apnea or treatment-emergent sleep apnea.
What are the Complications involved with Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition. Some of its complications are as below:
Daytime fatigue: You can not have a normal, restorative sleep if your sleep gets disturbed now and then. This leads to daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and irritability. Many have a difficult time concentrating at work and may fall asleep during the daytime. People with sleep apnea are more likely to have motor vehicle and workplace accidents. People may turn moody, quick-tempered, and even depressed. Children having sleep apnea may perform poorly in their academics.
High blood pressure or heart problems: During sleep apnea, there is a sudden drop of oxygen level and leads to increased blood pressure and also stains the cardiovascular system. Therefore, having obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure. Obstructive sleep apnea may also increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats such as atrial fibrillation. It is perilous if you continue to have repeated episodes of low blood oxygen.
Type 2 diabetes: Sleep apnea could increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome: This condition includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, and increased waist circumference.
Complications with medications and surgery: People who have had surgery are prone to sleep apnea because they will have complications after a major surgery and breathing problems are likely to occur, especially when you are sedated or sleeping on your back.
Liver problems: People with sleep apnea are more likely to have dysfunctional liver and show signs of scarring.
Sleep-deprived partners: Partners of sleep apnea patients will have a tough time sleeping at night due to loud snoring. These people equally suffer as much as the patients themselves.
The General Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The signs of different types of sleep apnea often overlap and sometimes it is difficult to determine which type you have. The most common symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apneas are:
- Loud snoring
- Gasping for air during sleep
- A repeated episode where you stop breathing
- Waking up to dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention or focusing on the task at hand
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (Hypersomnia)
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Some lifestyle changes are enough to treat the major symptoms of sleep apnea. You can try out the following methods to put an end to undesired nighttime snoring.
Lose weight: Like mentioned earlier, obese people are likely to get sleep apnea than people who are not. So losing weight will surely have an impact on sleep apnea. However, it doesn’t offer a total cure but it can reduce the number of breathing episodes, reduce your blood pressure and decrease fatigue and daytime sleepiness. Even a small amount of weight shedding opens up your throat and improves sleep apnea symptoms.
Use nose vents: Nose vents offer the perfect solution to your snoring problem. This popular method is used by many having nasal congestion. Today many customized nose vents fit the nose of any size and sit comfortably without bothering the wearer. You hardly notice any foreign object inside your nose. The snore guards clear the airway and help you breathe without any hassle.
Exercise: Exercise does not necessarily stop you from snoring but definitely mitigates the problem caused due to sleep apnea. It improves your energy and alertness during the day. You can also try aerobic, resistance training, and yoga for strengthening muscles and improving breathing.
Sleep on one side: Sleeping on your back narrows the pathway but sleeping on one side opens it. If you find sleeping on one side uncomfortable, then take the help of countered side pillows and body pillows.
Avoid alcohol, anti-anxiety medications: Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime because it relaxes the muscles and that may interfere with breathing.
Other Tips for Sleep Apnea
- Open your nasal passages at night: Use things like nasal dilator, saline spray, breathing strips, or nasal integration system.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals: Avoid this before going to bed
- Quit smoking: Smoking increases fluid retention and also increases inflammation.
Other Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
The good news is that there are various treatment options available for sleep apnea if none of the treatments mentioned above works.
CPAP is the main treatment for people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. It keeps the upper airway open so that you can breathe easily. If you feel CPAP is not the right treatment for you, you can try other options such as oral appliances and surgeries.
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