A condition that you may or may not have heard of, sleep apnea is increasingly common in modern society and can be fatal if not managed properly. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes your breathing to stop and start while you’re asleep. When we’re sleeping, we still need to be breathing constantly, so if your breathing stops, then there could be potentially disastrous consequences, the most serious of which is death.
The cause of sleep apnea is when your airways, which are the breathing passages in your nose and throat, get too relaxed while you’re asleep, resulting in your body not taking in any air. As such, the condition is often associated with older people and with those who have an existing health issue, or are chronically overweight. All of these factors can increase your chances of getting sleep apnea, or it could simply be a case of bad luck.
Whatever the cause, you need to make sure you identify the issue and deal with it proactively. Because sleep apnea occurs while we’re asleep, it can sometimes be difficult to detect, which is why the condition is considered to be more prevalent in America than previously thought.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, think you might have it, or just want to find out more, this guide can help. We’ve put together some basic information about sleep apnea so that you can learn more about the condition and how it might affect your life.
Common Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
As mentioned earlier, sleep apnea can be difficult to detect, as it occurs while we’re unconscious during the night. However, there are still several symptoms that you should be aware of, including:
- Loud snoring
- Making choking, snorting or gasping sounds while asleep
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Struggling to stay asleep at night
- Becoming increasingly tired during the day
- Getting a headache in the morning
- Feeling like you didn’t have a restful night’s sleep
Some of these symptoms might be reported to you by someone else who sleeps with you, such as a romantic partner, while you might notice some yourself. If you live and sleep alone, then talk to your doctor and consider taking part in a monitored sleep study to learn more about your activities while you sleep and how you can deal with any health conditions you might have.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Sleep apnea is an incredibly dangerous condition if not treated promptly and proactively. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available that can help you to manage the condition and enjoy great rest for many years to come.
One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine. By gently blowing air to the nose and throat throughout the night, these machines can help to keep your airways open and encourage your unconscious body to breathe.
Another similar solution is a BPAP, or bi-level positive airway pressure, which provides constant air but is less high-pressured than a CPAP machine, and can be better for younger people or those who struggle to sleep when wearing a CPAP machine.
There are also some mouthpieces, known as mandibular advancement devices, that can be used to bring your jaw forward and open up your airway. These devices can be less intimidating than their electrical counterparts but aren’t always as effective at treating sleep apnea.
In some rare cases, surgery might be suggested if your sleep apnea is severe and your doctor is concerned about your ability to breathe at night. They can perform a Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty to remove unneeded tissue from the soft palate and pharynx, which can cause issues with your breathing during the night. This surgery is relatively straightforward and can be useful for anyone with serious sleep apnea.
Issues With Sleep Apnea Equipment
While sleep apnea machines might seem like a convenient way to treat this condition, they can have issues. These include if the machine stops working, a power cut causes it to stop, or the machine confuses the sleeper and leads them to feel scared when they wake up. This can lead to night terrors or distorted dreams, which can make it hard for you to get the rest you need. Also, some of these machines can be dangerous and lead to other health problems.
For example, the CPAP machines from Philips contained disintegrating polyurethane foam (pe pur foam), which can cause cancer and a range of other serious health issues. Eventually, the machines were recalled, but Philips was aware of the issue prior to the recall and failed to act promptly. As a result, many patients who used these machines filed lawsuits against the company. To find out more about the case and the ongoing legal issues around the Philips CPAP machines, check out this article from Dolman Law.
While issues like this aren’t common, you need to be aware of them and how they affect you. If you have ever used one of these machines then you should discuss it with your doctor to check that you are not affected by this issue. Also, it would help if you stayed up to date on the latest issues affecting sleep apnea machines like the ones you use, so that you can know if you’re affected and what you need to do. Being proactive can reduce your risk of becoming ill as a result of faulty equipment and ensure that you stay safe while you sleep.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Reduce Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
Making the most of sleep apnea equipment, such as the options mentioned previously in this article, can be an effective way to treat sleep apnea. When treating the condition, you should always be aware of what your doctor says and follow their professional advice.
However, there are also some small lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your symptoms. These changes might not eradicate them completely, but they can make the condition easier to manage and help you to handle minor symptoms.
Some of these lifestyle changes you can make include:
- Losing Weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your chances of suffering from sleep apnea, as fat deposits in your airways can reduce their efficiency and weaken the muscles there. So, if you are chronically overweight, you should consider trying to reduce your weight to improve your sleep and limit your sleep apnea symptoms.
- Using Nasal Decongestants: Some people find that nasal decongestants or nose strips can help them to deal with minor sleep apnea symptoms.
- Exercising: Being physically active can help to improve the quality of your sleep and improve your general health, so it’s worth trying to do more exercise if you can. A little regular exercise is better than none at all, so even if you’re busy or don’t enjoy being active, you should try to find an activity you enjoy.
- Limiting Your Drinking: Drinking a lot can lead to weight gain, which is a key cause of sleep apnea. Also, drinking heavily can reduce the tone of the muscles in your airway and make them less effective, so you should try to limit your drinking.
- Try A New Sleeping Position: For some people, the way you sleep can have an effect on your breathing during the night. Where possible, try to sleep on your side, rather than on your front or back, as this puts less pressure on your muscles and airways while still allowing you to enjoy a comfortable night’s rest. It won’t fix the condition or alleviate serious symptoms, but changing your position could help if you only occasionally experience sleep apnea.
These lifestyle changes might seem small, but they have the potential to make a significant difference to those with sleep apnea. Also, if you’re concerned about developing sleep apnea, then trying to implement these lifestyle changes could reduce your chances of getting the condition. While there’s no fool-proof way to prevent sleep apnea, these lifestyle adaptations could help you to reduce your weight and stay healthy, which can reduce your chances of getting the condition.
What To Do If You Think You Have Sleep Apnea
If you think that you have sleep apnea, the first step to take is to visit your doctor. Discuss your symptoms with them and share any information you can. They might ask you to complete a diary or take some tests to assess if you have sleep apnea or if your symptoms are due to a different condition.
Usually, to assess sleep apnea, your doctor will conduct a sleep study, also known as a polysomnography. These tests are comprehensive and can help your doctor to understand your symptoms and diagnose a number of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can discuss treatment options with your doctor to find out what will be the most effective option for you. Everyone is different, so while this article does go over the basics of sleep apnea, you should talk to a professional to get tailored advice. Most people who are diagnosed with sleep apnea live long and full lives if they take care of it, so use this article and other online resources to understand your condition and how you can adapt your life around it.