What is sleep apnea?
The most common misconception is that sleep apnea equates to snoring. That is not necessarily true. People who suffer from the disorder may not snore, while people who snore may not have it. The two are just simply different, separate things.
Sleep apnea affects the way you breathe while you’re asleep. There can be pauses in your breathing typically between 10 to 20 seconds that occur as often as over a hundred times a night. This will in turn, shock you awake and disrupt your sleep. In more serious cases, it can lead to more serious health issues including heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke if left untreated. It is important to restrict these symptoms from worsening and enjoy your sleep by getting it back on its rightful course to recovery.
There are 3 variations of the disorder:
- Obtrusive sleep apnea. This is the most common type where snoring loudly is one of the symptoms.
- Central sleep apnea. This occurs when the brain is unable to gesture the muscles that regulate your breathing. People with this seldom snore.
- Complex sleep apnea. In rare cases, it is actually possible to have a combination of both!
You’re probably thinking, how do I even recognise my symptoms when they’re only active when I’m asleep? The simplest solution here is to get your partner to observe your sleep behavior. Alternatively, if you don’t wish to burden anyone else but yourself, just record yourself while you sleep! When monitoring your sleep behaviour, pay attention to choking or gasping after the pauses in breathing. This is a very big indicator that you do indeed have sleep apnea.
There are other symptoms that can be used as warning signs as well:
- Rapidly falling asleep throughout the day
- Morning headaches
- Memory problems and difficulty concentrating
- Changes in personality
- Feeling irritable or changes in personality
- Waking up frequently to urinate
- Having a dry mouth or a sore throat when you wake up
It’s common for people to be unable to distinguish if its sleep apnea or just plain snoring. Normal snoring simply does not interfere with your quality of sleep as much as sleep apnea does.
The typical profile of a person with obtrusive sleep apnea includes the following factors:
- Male and overweight
- Family history
- Over 65 years old
- Thick neck
- Receding chin
- Enlarged tonsils
- Nasal congestion
Central sleep apnea, however, is usually related to other serious illnesses such as heart diseases and stroke.
Treatment and remedies
Fortunately, this type of disorder is curable so do not be alarmed! In fact, there are tons of things that you can do to treat it on your own. The first thing you have to do is change your lifestyle.
These are some guidelines you can follow to reduce or even cure sleep apnea:
- Losing weight – Overweight individuals have extra tissue at the area around their throats, which can potentially block airflow into the lungs during sleep
- Quitting smoking – Smoking increases inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and airway
- Reducing consumption of alcohol, sleeping pills and sedatives – These three entities are known to interfere with breathing
- Avoiding caffeine
- Stick to light meals
- Sleeping regular hours – Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps you get better quality sleepy, and episodes of apnea will gradually start to decrease.
Also, here are a few little bedtime tips and tricks that you can follow to prevent sleep apnea. Some of these may work wonders for you:
- Sleeping on your side – This prevents your tongue and soft tissues from obstructing your airways when you sleep on your back
- Tennis ball trick – Sew a tennis ball onto the back of your sleeping attire. This prevents you from sleeping on your back. It sounds ridiculous, but people have sworn by this trick. You can use any other rounded, hard object.
- Sleep slanted – Use a foam wedge to prop yourself up when you sleep, typically an elevation of 4-6 inches will suffice.
- Open your nasal passages – You can use special devices for this. Breathing strips and nasal dilators are just some of the examples.
If your disorder is more severe than anticipated, seeking medical treatment is advisable. A sleep specialist can evaluate your condition and provide proper treatment such as using supplemental oxygen or utilising breathing apparatuses to manage the obstructed areas of obtrusive sleep apnea.
Do take note that there are only medications that reduce sleepiness, and not cure the disorder. In other words, you cannot solely rely on pills to cure it since all that it’s accomplishing is managing is its after effects.
Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP)
If you do suffer from sleep apnea, you’re probably familiar with this term. It is the most recommended device for snoring-related disorders and is also the most common treatment for severe obtrusive sleep apnea. The relief is instantaneous and there will be a significant uplift in your mental and physical energy. The CPAP device provides a constant flow of air that ensures your breathing passages are kept open throughout your sleep.
There are users who complain about the discomfort from using CPAP devices. But CPAP technology has improved over the years and is constantly improving up till now. Its form factor has been improved for both comfort, and a more pleasant overall experience.