What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is temporarily interrupted while you sleep. It may last only a couple of seconds or up to several minutes. A snorting or choking sound indicates that you’ve begun to breathe again. Sleep apnea can increase your risk of a variety of health problems and contributes to daytime sleepiness.
Click through the slideshow to learn more about how to manage the condition.
Treatment Through Lifestyle Adjustment
Managing sleep apnea may not be as difficult as you might think. Sometimes, just maintaining your weight or changing your sleeping position can be the key to eliminating apnea.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), being overweight or obese are risk factors for the condition. This is because people who weigh significantly more than their ideal body weight are more likely to have excess tissue at the back of the throat.
The ASAA states that around 70 percent of those with sleep apnea need to lose weight. When excess tissue blocks your airways, it causes you to snore as you sleep and sometimes to stop breathing.
Losing weight can shrink or redistribute the obstructive tissue, providing a solution to apnea. Although there haven’t been many formal studies of the effectiveness of weight loss for sleep apnea, many physicians report improvements in patients who lose weight.
Sleeping on your back allows the tissues in your throat to obstruct your airways more easily than when you lie in other positions. Try sleeping on your side or stomach to determine if your sleeping position is the cause.
If you can’t trust yourself to stay in the position during the night, attach a tennis ball to the back of your pajamas to prevent you from rolling onto your back.
If you don’t have luck treating your condition through lifestyle changes, medical treatment for sleep apnea can be very effective. Continuous positive air pressure therapy (CPAP) is first-line treatment for sleep apnea.
In CPAP, air is delivered to your nose and mouth through a mask. The pressure of the air keeps your airways from collapsing and becoming blocked.
Your doctor can help determine how best to approach your apnea. Wearing an oral guard, similar to a sports mouth guard, may be an option to help reposition the tongue and lower jaw. A dentist who specializes in sleep medicine will need to fit you for a dental appliance for sleep apnea. Your doctor may also recommend upper airway surgery to remove tissue in the airway.
Avoiding two vices can help with sleep apnea and improve your general health, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Alcohol can cause you to wake up frequently throughout the night, and can cause the breathing muscles in your upper airway to relax, both of which can trigger sleep apnea.
Smoking cigarettes also worsens upper-airway swelling, which can worsen both snoring and apnea.
Importance of Continued Treatment
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to a number of other health problems, some of which could be life threatening. These include:
- disturbed sleep or excessive sleepiness during the day
- high blood pressure
- heart attack or stroke
- congestive heart failure or cardiac arrhythmia
Therefore, it’s important to see your doctor if you believe you may have sleep apnea—and to continue following any treatment plans that your doctor recommends for your condition.
Prioritize Healthy Sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical. If you suffer from sleep apnea, stick to your treatment method and stay healthy. Ask your doctor for guidance with treatment options if you have insomnia symptoms, including difficulty falling or staying asleep or waking up not feeling refreshed.
Continuous management is the key to reducing episodes, maintaining your health, and feeling more rested.