sleep apnea

Everything you need to know + Snoring

Sleep Apnea

What Is Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is best described as an involuntary stopping or ceasing of one’s breathing that occurs when you are asleep. There are three main types of sleep apnea. These are obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is the most common of the three. Because it occurs at night, you are usually not aware that your breathing stops several times at night. Typically, one becomes aware only after their partner informs them of their snoring, or they have had several sleepless nights.

Are you snoring at night, or have a partner who snores really loud? That sudden pause in your breathing can wake you from much needed restorative sleep. More so, it may mean you or your partner have developed sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is considered a common sleep disorder. More than 3.9 million people in the UK suffer from sleep apnea. Snoring is a major symptom of sleep apnea. Although snoring is common, it can be indicative of a serious illness. Severe sleep apnea can be a symptom of a much more dangerous disease or inversely cause dangerous health conditions.

Article at a Glance

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Extremely loud snoring
  • Gasping for air while you are asleep
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Breathing stopping at night
  • Waking up with dry mouth
  • Difficulty concentrating when awake
  • Irritability
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up during the night
  • Dry mouth in the AM

Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

Several risk factors that are linked to sleep apnea. These include:

Excessive weight gain

People with sleep apnea typically have a BMI of 25 or more. A person is considered obese once they reach a BMI of 30.

Middle age

Although sleep apnea can occur regardless of how old you are, it frequently affects middle-aged groups.

Hypertension

People with sleep apnea are at high risk for hypertension. This is because sleep apnea increases high blood pressure and strains the cardiovascular system.

Large neck size

Individuals with thicker necks will find that they are prone to snoring or sleep apnea. The problem with having thicker neck is that it can cause blockage in your throat which can disrupt your sleep.

Family history

Genes can also play a part in developing sleep apnea. If you have a family member who is prone to sleep apnea, there is a greater chance that you may develop this condition.

Male gender

Men are at higher risk for central sleep apnea, whereas a woman’s risk of this condition increases once they reach their menopausal stage.

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Three Types of Sleep Apnea

It’s easy enough to dismiss snoring as just being a sign of fatigue, but if this has been going on for days and is affecting your partner, you may have a sleep disorder that needs to be addressed. Most of us are familiar with sleep apnea OSA as it is the most common form of sleep apnea, but you might be surprised that you can develop other types of this disorder. Let’s find out about the three specific types of sleep apnea and their symptoms.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Considered as the most common type of sleep apnea, sleep apnea obstructive occurs when there is a partial or even complete blockage in your upper airway while you sleep. This often occurs when the throat muscles become relaxed causing the tongue or even the fatty tissues to fall back into your airway, thus restricting your breathing. It can also occur with enlarged tonsils and adenoids. At this point, air is prevented from moving beyond the obstruction; hence there is a reduction of blood flowing to the brain. When this happens, the brain signals you to wake up partially in order for you to start breathing again which can disrupt your sleep. This can happen many times during the night, so your sleep will be on and off.

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms (Sleep Apnea OSA)

What are the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea? Here are a few common signs.

  • Loud, disruptive snoring due to airway obstruction
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness due to frequent sleep interruption
  • Restless sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability or depression

2. Central Sleep Apnea

Another type of sleep apnea that you may be suffering from is the central sleep apnea which can occur when the brain fails to give a signal to the muscles controlling your breathing. With central sleep apnea, the airway has actually collapsed. This is different from the obstructive type of sleep apnea. With the obstructive type of sleep apnea, there is a blockage. With central sleep apnea, there is a problem with communication from the brain to the muscles.

  • Shortness of breath that disrupts sleep
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irregular breathing during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Snoring
  • Mood changes
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Poor or restless sleep

3. Complex / Mixed Sleep Apnea

As the name suggests, this type of sleep apnea is a combination of symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Patients who are receiving treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnea may exhibit symptoms of central apnea during therapy. It was only in 2006 that researchers from Mayo Clinic discovered that some OSA patients were, in fact, suffering from mixed apnea.

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Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

To properly diagnose sleep apnea, it is best that you talk to a board-certified sleep medicine physician. They will ask you questions and obtain a history specifically regarding symptoms of sleep apnea.

This physician can determine whether you are suffering from sleep apnea. Your physician will be reviewing your history of sleep as well as give you a physical examination. It is possible to take a sleep apnea test or take a diagnostic polysomnogram or sleep study.

Other diagnostic tests may include:

  • Multiple sleep latency testing or MSLT
  • Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT)
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale
  • Overnight Oximetry
  • Sleep log

Furthermore, they will test your blood oxygen level and examine your throat. Sometimes, sleep apnea is due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids, necessitating a tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy. This is particularly common in children after they develop repeated ear or sinus infections.

Your doctor will continue to assess the effectiveness of your sleep apnea treatment plan to determine its effectiveness. They may do this by measuring oxygen levels and your overall condition.

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Treatment for Sleep Apnea

The good news is that there are treatments for sleep apnea. Some sleep apnea patients have to try more than one treatment to find the one that works best to alleviate their nighttime snoring.

Here are some common methods to help with your breathing during sleep.

This physician can determine whether you are suffering from sleep apnea. Your physician will be reviewing your history of sleep as well as give you a physical examination. It is possible to take a sleep apnea test or take a diagnostic polysomnogram or sleep study.

Continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP

Patients who are suffering from mild sleep apnea may be asked to try a CPAP mask to help with their breathing. This CPAP machine is a breathing device that allows a steady flow of pressurised air to keep open the airway so that your breathing will be better at night.

Bilevel positive airway pressure or BiPAP

Somewhat similar to CPAP, this type of mask includes two pressure settings. BiPAP can be used for inhalation and a lower pressure for exhalation.

Chinstrap

A chinstrap supports your chin during sleep. By keeping your mouth closed, air does not travel over the tongue and soft palate, minimising the snoring sound. A chinstrap is sometimes used in conjunction with a CPAP machine.

Dental devices

Dentists who specialise in treating sleep apnea may provide you with oral appliances that will help open your airway as you sleep.

Surgery

There are instances when surgery is indicated to help deal with sleep apnea, particularly when you have large tonsils, an overbite, or a deviated septum. Among the types of surgery that can be performed includes a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. During this surgery, the soft tissue found at the back of the soft palate and throat is removed to widen the airway. Mandibular maxillomandibular advancement surgery corrects facial or throat problems that are causing an obstruction.

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Natural Treatments for Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Snoring can occur regardless of our age and gender, although, men are more likely to snore than women. Perhaps, a home remedy (along with medical treatments) may be worth trying for sleep apnea in children and adults to restore a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, there are some home remedies that you can try to treat sleep apnea. Here are a few that are worth mentionin.

Honey

Patients who are suffering from mild sleep apnea may be asked to try a CPAP mask to help with their breathing. This CPAP machine is a breathing device that allows a steady flow of pressurised air to keep open the airway so that your breathing will be better at night.

Garlic

Chewing on two to three cloves every day followed by a glass of water can help you reap garlic’s anti-inflammatory benefits. If you don’t find this feasible, try adding more garlic to your meals as you will still absorb the nutrients.

Peppermint

The refreshing and cooling effect of peppermint may make it a useful treatment for sleep apnea. You can diffuse some peppermint essential oil in your bedroom as you sleep, so you will be able to inhale the scent. This may help your airway to expand. You can also try adding a few drops of peppermint on your pillow so its scent can be inhaled easily. The anti-inflammatory properties of peppermint are worth taking note of too.

Warm turmeric milk

Another possible remedy that may help you snore less at night is drinking warm turmeric milk. One, milk has this ability to promote better sleep, and two, turmeric contains anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce swelling in your throat as well as in your respiratory system. All that you have to do is to boil a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a cup of milk. Make sure you let it cool before drinking. Do this half an hour before bedtime.

Almonds

Did you know that eating almonds can increase the magnesium levels in your system? It is believed that this promotes muscle relaxation which may help open up your airway at night.

Chamomile

What other treatment can you use for sleep apnea? Well, drinking chamomile tea may be of good use too because it contains certain compounds that may help relax your muscles and nerves that promote sleepiness. To prepare chamomile tea, add two tablespoons of chamomile to hot water and allow to steep for five minutes.

Lose weight

Weight loss is recommended for those whose weight is beyond normal as the extra layer of fat may be causing obstruction in your airway.

Change your sleeping position

If you are a snorer, sleeping on your back is not recommended as this causes your tongue to fall back into your airway.

Treatment of sleep apnea is essential. Sometimes, treatment may mean taking a home remedy or sleeping on a few pillows or better yet, sleeping on an adjustable bed base. Other treatments may be more complicated like a CPAP machine. Sleeping on your left side may help because it aids your blood flow and cardiovascular system.

From blood pressure issues to not being able to fall asleep and stay asleep, untreated sleep apnea can both cause and exacerbate a number of health conditions. It’s important to discuss your condition with a sleep expert to find the correct treatment.

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