Many people think that sleep apnea is only something long-term snorers or the elderly get, but this isn’t the case. This health condition affects millions of people every year and can strike us at different ages and for different reasons.
Those with sleep apnea have breathing that stops and starts continually through the night as they rest, and it’s a disorder that can have serious consequences. Here’s what you need to know about this condition today.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
You need to understand the signs of sleep apnea to look out for. There are numerous ones, including stopping breathing during sleep (which you’ll likely need someone else to notice) or waking up with a headache or dry mouth. You might find yourself gasping for air as you sleep or wake yourself up with loud snoring or have your partner or children let you know that you’re noisy in this regard.
You may struggle with insomnia or irritability and find yourself feeling incredibly sleepy and struggling to pay attention during the day due to the interrupted sleep you get if you have sleep apnea.
It’s also helpful to realize there are numerous types of sleep apnea. The disease has three main categories. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, arises when the muscles in the throat relax too much. Alternatively, this type can occur because something blocks the airway (the trachea) that brings air into your body. Common blockages include the tonsils, uvula, or tongue. Plus, in some cases, people have too much fatty tissue in their throat, which causes issues.
Central sleep apnea is the second type, and it’s so-called because it stems from problems with the function of the central nervous system. If you have this type, your brain won’t be sending enough “go ahead” signals to the breathing-related muscles in your body. It could be that the signal gets interrupted along the way or fails to send in the first place.
The third type of sleep apnea is called complex sleep apnea syndrome. This condition is the name for the health problem when people have both sleep apnea issues mentioned above. The two combine to give sufferers breathing patterns like those found in patients with central sleep apnea and the clinical features found in those with obstructive sleep apnea.
Risk Factors and Common Causes
You may be more prone to developing sleep apnea if you have thyroid problems, underlying neurological issues, nasal congestion, large or swollen tonsils, or you’re obese. Other causes can include genetic factors, allergies, colds, heart or kidney failure, or thickened tissues or excess fat stores around the airway. Sometimes, the muscles and other tissues in the throat and mouth don’t do their job correctly. Hormonal issues can be involved, too.
Your chances of getting sleep apnea rise as you age, go through menopause, or get pregnant. Other risk factors include drinking too much alcohol, smoking, having diabetes or sinusitis, or taking certain medications and drugs. For some people, problems stem from having a recessed chin or a large overbite.
Have you noticed some of the symptoms and signs of sleep apnea? If so, see a doctor and let them know all the details. You’ll need a medical practitioner to investigate further and diagnose the condition if you have it. Many doctors get patients to attend a sleep clinic so they can be monitored overnight to confirm suspicions of sleep apnea. Physicians will also have a list of questions they’ll ask to determine if you’re suffering from sleep apnea.
Ideas for Preventing and Treating Sleep Apnea
Happily, there are things you can do if you get diagnosed with this health concern. For example, start by addressing any underlying conditions that could be limiting your breathing, like kidney, heart, thyroid, hormonal, or weight issues. You may get told to get a new bed setup, too, so that you can get into a preferred sleeping position that makes it easier to sleep when you lay down.
These days, there are all sorts of great options on the market, so you can buy a natural mattress made from breathable materials that’s also less likely to exacerbate your respiratory issues or mattresses made from memory foam, innersprings, or other designs. Ensure you’re using a suitable pillow that keeps your head and neck in an ideal position, too. Lifestyle options will likely be necessary to help you manage your sleep apnea. For example, doctors will probably prescribe a heart-healthy diet and that you limit your alcohol intake and stop smoking.
For most patients, the leading treatment solution is utilizing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy machine. You need to place this equipment over the head and face. It keeps airways open by providing, via the mask component, a constant stream of gentle pressured air.
In some situations, specialists will recommend surgery. People may need an operation to correct tonsil, sinus, airway, or other complications. In addition, some sleep apnea sufferers get prescribed medication to help them deal with the condition.
Sleep apnea is a serious health issue, so it’s wise to educate yourself about it and seek out a physician ASAP if you’re worried you might be at risk.