Learn About Sleep Apnea
The quality of sleep to a great extent determines the quality of your life and your overall health condition. A good night's sleep starts a good day. However, many people are having serious trouble sleeping due to a respiratory disease called sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by recurrent pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caused by physical blockage of the airway, and central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, waking up with a choking or gasping sensation, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and morning headaches. You may also find yourself restless tossing and turning during sleeping and waking up with a dry mouth as try to get comfortable and breathe with your mouth during sleep. Moreover, if left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious complications and other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and decreased quality of life.
Who is at more risk of sleep apnea?
Although sleep apnea can happen to anyone, some may be at more risk. Here are some factors that increase the risk of developing sleep apnea:
Age: Sleep apnea is more common in older adults, although it can occur at any age.
Gender: Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
Neck size: People with larger neck circumferences may be at higher risk of sleep apnea.
Family history: Sleep apnea tends to run in families, and there may be a genetic component.
Smoking: Smoking can increase inflammation in the airways, which can contribute to sleep apnea.
Alcohol and sedative use: Alcohol and sedatives relax the muscles in the airway, making it more likely to collapse during sleep.
Nasal congestion: People with nasal congestion or other respiratory problems may be at higher risk of sleep apnea.
It's important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop sleep apnea. Consult with a healthcare provider to assess your risk and discuss appropriate screening and treatment options.
If you are having any possible signs of sleep apnea, contact a doctor for further diagnosis. Usually, the steps for diagnosing sleep apnea include:
Medical history: A healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, including snoring, pauses in breathing, excessive daytime sleepiness, and others. They will also ask about your personal and family medical history.
Physical exam: The provider will perform a physical exam to assess your neck circumference, body mass index (BMI), and the presence of other risk factors for sleep apnea.
Sleep study: A sleep study, also called a polysomnogram, is the standard test for diagnosing sleep apnea. During a sleep study, your sleep patterns and breathing are monitored while you sleep.
Home sleep test (HST): A home sleep test is a portable device that you use at home to monitor your breathing and sleep patterns.
Oxygen saturation: Your healthcare provider may also measure your oxygen saturation levels during sleep to determine if they drop low enough to cause sleep apnea.
It's significant to get an accurate diagnosis of sleep apnea to determine the best course of treatment. Your healthcare provider can help guide you through the diagnostic process and recommend the best treatment plan for you.
Common treatments for sleep apnea include:
Lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, and avoiding sleeping on your back can help reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): CPAP is one of the most commonly used treatments for sleep apnea. It delivers a constant flow of air through a mask to keep the airway open and prevent pauses in breathing during sleep. It also reduces snoring by preventing airway collapse during sleep. People with sleep apnea who use CPAP therapy often report improved memory, concentration, mood, and energy levels due to better quality sleep. Moreover, CPAP therapy can help reduce high blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are associated with, or complications of sleep apnea.
Oral appliances: Oral appliances, such as mandibular advancement devices, can help keep the airway open by repositioning the jaw and tongue.
Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove excess tissue in the throat or to repair structural abnormalities that are contributing to sleep apnea.
Some people may require a combination of treatments for optimal results. And the treatment plan may need to be adjusted over time as your symptoms change. So it's important to keep in touch with your healthcare provider for the best treatment option and make timely adjustments.