Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder whose most common symptom is snoring while sleeping. Because of this reason sleep apnea often remains undiagnosed and if left untreated, it sometimes results in serious ailments like high blood pressure and heart problems. We will talk about the kinds of sleep apnea, the causes and symptoms, and lastly, the treatment options you can explore if you suffer from the disorder.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are 3 kinds of sleep apnea; mixed or combined sleep apnea, central sleep apnea (CSA), and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, as the name suggests, part of your airway becomes physically blocked, rendering you unable to breathe. In CSA, there is an issue in the part of the brain that controls respiration, which causes shortness of breath and mixed sleep apnea, or both. The causes for sleep apnea are primarily:
This essentially refers to how the muscles and bones in and around your throat and mouth, including your jaw and tongue, are positioned as they affect your breathing.
- Being Overweight/Obese
Known as one of the leading causes of sleep apnea (OSA), being overweight can cause your airway to narrow down leading to breathing difficulties.
- Hereditary Sleep Apnea
As sleep apnea can be genetic, you are much more likely to develop it yourself if you have a family history of sleep apnea. Other causes include laying on your back to sleep and hormonal imbalances as well as nasal congestion.
- Using Intoxicants, Sedatives, and Smoking Cigarettes
These drugs may cause the throat muscles to relax and obstruct breathing. There is also a link between heavy smokers developing sleep apnea.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
While dealing with any disorder, the most important thing is to get a correct diagnosis first and foremost. It is recommended to seek the advice of medical professionals; discussing your symptoms and concerns with the relevant doctors can help in reaching a diagnosis efficiently. In case of diagnosing sleep apnea, here are the symptoms you should be on the lookout for,
Snoring has been found to be one of the main indicators that a person may be suffering from sleep apnea. This occurs because, in sleep apnea, your breathing is interrupted periodically for 5-20 seconds which causes trouble in breathing properly.
- Fatigue During the Day
One important distinguishing factor between sleep apnea and regular snoring is that regular snoring does not cause fatigue or tiredness, whereas sleep apnea does. This is due to the fact that the lack of oxygen to the brain when your breathing is interrupted causes it to jolt awake. Even though you may not remember waking up that often during the night, sleep apnea causes your body to remain in light sleep for longer and you don’t get the required amount of REM or deep sleep to fully recuperate from the day. Hence the fatigue.
- Inability to Focus
Lack of a good night’s rest can have a detrimental effect on your ability to focus and perform tasks. It may also cause you to be restless and irritable. If left untreated for long periods of time, sleep apnea may also lead to depression and/or anxiety.
Lack of sleep and frequent oxygen shortage to the brain can cause headaches in the short term and may lead to impaired cognitive functions in the long term.
Day to Day Changes in Your Lifestyle
By improving your eating habits and taking care of your overall diet and reducing the intake of sedatives and other intoxicants and quitting smoking, the effects of sleep apnea can be reduced drastically. Other changes include sleeping on your stomach or side and maintaining weight and health by exercising regularly. With the correct diagnosis, timely treatment, the right equipment, and the right resources, according to the specialists at Well Aware Systems, you can live a normal and healthy life. You should also adjust your lifestyle and consider the following treatment options if you wish to deal with the disorder in the long run.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
Aside from the changes in your lifestyle, there are numerous treatment options that can be considered. CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) therapy is one of the main treatment options and allows you to breathe continuously without interruption. Surgery is another option to treat OSA by opting to widen your airway. Similar to a mouthguard, a Mandibular repositioning device (MRD) is a device you can wear while sleeping to reposition your jaw and tongue to allow easier breathing. Lastly, some medications also work in alleviating sleep apnea but they should not be taken without prescriptions as they have many side effects.
As scary as it sounds, sleep apnea is a very manageable disorder. With the correct diagnosis and treatment, as well as certain changes to your lifestyle, your sleep apnea can be a thing of the past.