Sleep apnea is known to be a potentially dangerous sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. If a person snores loudly and feels tired even after a full night's sleep then they might have sleep apnea.
Types and causes
Obstructive sleep apnea- This is the more common form and it occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. When the muscles relax the airway narrows or close as the person breathes in. This causes the person to not get enough air, which can lower the oxygen level in the blood. The brain then senses the inability to breathe and briefly rouses the person from sleep so that they can reopen the airway. This awakening is usually so brief that most don't remember it. People might snort, choke or gasp during this awakening. This pattern can repeat itself many times in an hour, all night, impairing the person's ability to sleep restfully.
Factors that increase the risk of this form of sleep apnea include excess weight, a narrowed airway, being male, being older, use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers, having family members with sleep apnea, smoking, and nasal congestion.
Central sleep apnea- This occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This means that they make no effort to breathe for a short period and might awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Risk factors for this form of sleep apnea include being older, being male, using narcotic pain medications, having heart problems and having had a stroke.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome- This is also known as treatment emergent central sleep apnea and it occurs when a person has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea disorders.
Symptoms and complications
Some common sleep apnea symptoms include waking up with a very sore or dry throat, loud snoring, occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation, sleepiness or lack of energy, morning headaches, restless sleep, forgetfulness, changes in mood, lack of interest in sex, and insomnia.
Sleep apnea is a very serious medical condition and can cause many complications if left untreated. Complications that arise from this sleep disorder can include daytime fatigue, high blood pressure or heart problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, complications with medications and surgery, and liver problems.
Also Read: List of global health threats by WHO for 2019
When to see a doctor
If you think you might have sleep apnea, see a doctor since treatment can ease your symptoms and might help prevent heart problems and other complications.
Loud snoring can be an indication of a potentially serious problem, but not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. Talk to your doctor if you find that you have signs or symptoms of sleep apnea. Also ask your doctor about any sleep problems that leaves you fatigued, sleepy and irritable.
For milder cases of sleep apnea, the doctor may recommend only small lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If you have nasal allergies, then your doctor will recommend treatment for these allergies. If these measures do not improve the signs and symptoms or if the apnea is moderate to severe, a number of other treatments are available including therapies and surgery.
Certain devices exist which can help open up a blocked airway. In other cases, surgery might be necessary but is only an option after other treatments have failed
In some cases, self-care might be the best way for you to deal with obstructive sleep apnea and possibly central sleep apnea. Try these tips:
- Lose excess weight- Even a slight weight loss can help relieve constriction of your throat and in some cases, sleep apnea can resolve if you return to a healthy weight.
- Exercise- Regular exercise is known to help ease the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea even without weight loss. Try to get a few minutes of moderate activity, such as a brisk walk, most days of the week.
- Avoid alcohol and certain medications such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills as these relax the muscles in the back of your throat and interfere with breathing.
- Sleep on your side or abdomen rather than on your back as sleeping on the back can cause the tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of the throat and block the airway
- Do not smoke as it can aggravate the symptoms of sleep apnea. If you are a smoker, you should start looking for resources to help you quit.
Tags: Sleep apnea symptoms, Obstructive sleep apnea, Sleep apnea treatment
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