Do you feel embarrassed about your loud snoring? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Millions of people across the globe have this problem. But mind you, snoring is no laughing matter. It could very well be a surefire sign of a serious condition called sleep apnea, which involves repeated cessations in breathing. This sleeping disorder leaves a patient feeling tired, depressed, and forgetful during the day. Ignoring this condition could pose a significant threat to your health. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep quality, feel more energetic
Sleep Apnea: What Is It
Sleep apnea is a common yet serious sleep disorder that is characterized by brief interruptions in breathing. In most instances, patients are not aware of these short breathing pauses, which may happen up to 100 times or more when they are asleep. These interruptions disrupt your natural sleep rhythm, which in turn puts your body under a lot of stress. All that patients know is that they feel tired, mentally drained, less productive during the day.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. This condition involves a blockage in the patient’s airway, which results into loud snoring and pauses in breathing. As mentioned earlier, the patients may not be aware of these symptoms, therefore, the most reliable source such information would be one’s roommate or bed partner. If you believe that there’s nothing wrong with snoring, you have to think again. It could be a sign that you have sleep apnea, a condition that could take a serious toll on your mental and physical health.
Central sleep apnea is another, less common type of sleep apnea. The central nervous system of patients who have this condition fails to send signals to the muscles that regulate automatic respiration. Also, those who have this condition are less likely to snore, which means this problem often go unnoticed.
Complex sleep apnea is a type of sleep apnea that involves both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.
How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea?
If you constantly lack enough sleep due to this condition, you may experience daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, slow reflexes, and higher risks of accidents. Patients may also experience moodiness, irritability, depression, heart disease, liver problems, and weight gain. Luckily, you can control sleep apnea using the right professional treatment and self-help strategies. By arming yourself with the right knowledge and seeking out the assistance of experts, you can once again get enough sleep, feel rejuvenated, and alert when you’re awake.
- Chronic and loud snoring
- Gasping or choking sound during sleep
- Breathing interruptions
- Daytime sleepiness
- Lack of concentration
- Dry mouth or a sore throat after waking up
- Morning headaches
- Frequent urination at night
Sleep Apnea Vs. Snoring
Although one of the most common signs of sleep apnea is snoring, it does not automatically mean that all people who snore have sleep apnea. How would you know if what you have is sleep apnea or if it is just normal snoring? The biggest and primary indicator is how you feel during the day. If what you have is just normal snoring, you will feel refreshed and energetic when you’re awake. But if your snoring is a direct result of sleep apnea then you will feel unusually exhausted as you go about your normal routine despite having slept for more than 10 hours.
It is highly recommended that you monitor your snoring or ask your bed partner to do this for you. Be sure to note its loudness and frequency. It is also helpful to take observe if you make gasping or choking sounds as well as other unusual noises while you are asleep.
Common Causes of Sleep Apnea
Although anybody can suffer from sleep apnea, some people have higher risks of developing this sleeping condition. The risk factors include:
– Family history of sleep apnea
– Over the age of 50
– Large neck circumference (more than 40cm)
– Deviated septum
– Enlarged adenoids or tonsils
– Receding chin
– Medical conditions or allergies that cause nasal blockage or congestion
Do not be scared. Get yourself checked if you suspect that you have sleep apnea. This kind of sleep problem is treatable and there are many things you can do on your own to alleviate the symptoms of mild to moderate sleep apnea. There are numerous home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your condition. But, do not forget that nothing can ever be as good as seeking the experts for medical tests, diagnosis, and treatment.
Weight loss – there are many cases wherein patients who suffer from sleep apnea are overweight. Because of this, the extra tissues that they have at the back of their throat fall down and block the airway thus, preventing air from getting into their lungs while asleep. Losing those extra pounds can help in opening up your throat and lessening the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Stop Smoking – smokers also have higher chances of suffering from sleep apnea due to increased swelling and fluid retention in their throat and upper respiratory tract.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sleeping pills, sedatives, and eating heavy meals a couple of hours before going to bed.
Exercise Regularly – apart from helping you lose weight, exercising regularly can also help you improve the quality of your sleep. For instance, practicing yoga will help strengthen your respiratory tract muscles and improve your breathing.
Follow A Sleep Schedule – You should also stick to a sleep schedule since it can help you relax and it promotes better sleep quality.
Bedtime tips – Avoid sleeping on your back because it will cause your tongue and soft tissues to block your airway. Try to sleep on your side as much as possible. To avoid rolling on your back while sleeping, you can sew a tennis ball at the back of your pajama top. Another effective tip is to elevate your head by four inches or your upper body using a pillow. You can also use a nasal dilator, breathing strips, or saline spray to open your nasal passages.
CPAP or continuous positive airflow pressure is one of the most common treatments offered to patients suffering from sleep apnea. It uses a device that comes with CPAP masks, which will be placed on your nose and mouth and give off a steady stream of air to help keep your airways open while you are asleep. You might have heard others complain that this machine is uncomfortable to use. Despite that, be sure to give it a try. CPAP technology is constantly evolving and manufacturers are always developing new ways to make patients feel comfortable while they use their CPAP machines. Sleep apnea machines these days are more comfortable, lighter, and quieter than their older counterparts. Patients also report great improvement in their physical and mental energy with the constant use of their CPAP machines. Just give yourself some time to adjust if you are new to using the device.
Other breathing equipment may also be recommended to treat sleep apnea. The EPAP or the expiratory positive airway pressure involves the use of a device that is placed over the nostrils to help make sure that the airway is kept open while the patient is sleeping. Compared to CPAP machines, EPAP is smaller and much less intrusive. It is recommended to patients with mild to moderate OSA or obstructive sleep apnea.
BiPAP/BPAP or Bilevel positive airway pressure machines are used for patients who find CPAP machines uncomfortable to use. These are also ideal for patients with central sleep apnea and those who require help due to a weak breathing pattern. A BiPAP device automatically changes the air pressure while the patient is asleep. More pressure is delivered during inhalation while less pressure is given off during exhalation. Some models also deliver a breath if the machine detects that the patient did not breathe for a certain duration.
ASV or the adaptive servo-ventilation equipment is used to treat OSA and central sleep apnea. This device stores and refers to certain data about your normal breathing patterns and automatically utilizes the airflow pressure to prevent episodes of breathing cessation while the patient is asleep.
Dental devices may also be suggested by your sleep specialist. These are placed inside your mouth and act much like a mouth guard. The most commonly used dental devices are the tongue retaining device and the mandibular repositioning device. Both of these oral appliances help keep your airway open by making sure that your lower jaw and tongue are pushed forward while you are asleep. Dental devices work best for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. However, they also come with some drawbacks such as soreness, nausea, and saliva build up.
Surgery is another option that your sleep expert may suggest if all the other sleep apnea devices like those offered by Resmed, Fisher and Paykel, and Philips Respironics, failed to help you manage your sleep apnea. The surgical procedure involves widening the size of your airway to help you manage or control the episodes of sleep apnea. The operation may involve the removal of the tonsils, adenoids, or extra tissue inside the patient’s nose or at the back of the throat. The upper airway will then be made larger by reconstructing the jaw and the soft palate will be implanted with plastic rods. Keep in mind that surgeries also come with risks and complications so be sure to seek the help of an expert before choosing this option.