How Can I Prevent Sleep Apnea?

How Can I Prevent Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which a person stops and starts breathing several times an hour during sleep. These pauses in breathing might only last a few seconds but can last as much as several minutes. Sleep apnea makes getting a good night’s rest impossible and if left untreated can result in some very serious health issues. It is a condition that affects roughly 1 in 5 adults, so chances are that you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea. With it being such a common condition you might be wondering: How can I prevent sleep apnea?

Risk Factors

Sleep apnea is not just a condition for overweight men who snore. It’s true that those factors do increase your risks, but sleep apnea is far less picky than that. In fact, this stereotype is perhaps one of the most prevalent misconceptions about sleep apnea. The following factors increase your risk of developing sleep apnea:

  • Genetics
  • Family
  • Lifestyle
  • Health
  • Weight

Genetics

Your genes play a big role in how likely you or a loved one are to develop sleep apnea. They decide everything about you from physical traits like your hair and eye color down to how you perceive certain tastes and smells. But how do they affect your risk factors for sleep apnea?

Most people who suffer from this type of sleep-disordered breathing have what doctors call Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA. With OSA breathing stops and starts because the airway has become partially or completely blocked. This blockage might occur at any point in the airway such as the sinuses, mouth, or back of the throat. Certain genetic conditions or birth defects can cause the airway to be unusually narrow. A smaller airway means it takes less for your airway to become blocked. So other factors like nasal swelling or soft palate collapse will have a greater affect on your breathing.

Family

While many family related risk factors technically fall under the category of genetics, family factors extend beyond just your genes. Many risk factors for sleep apnea are heavily influenced by family culture. Family culture refers to the traditions, habits, and values you have as a family. Whether genetically predisposed or not, family culture affects your risk of many conditions that lead to sleep apnea. How active is your family? Do your traditions revolve around food? What is your family diet like? How does your family culture affect your sleep hygiene? Your answers to these questions may help you identify certain risk factors. If you or a loved one has sleep apnea, chances are family culture played a part.

Lifestyle

Many lifestyle choices can increase your risk of sleep apnea in ways you might not have considered. For example, the use of alcohol, tranquilizers, or sleep aids cause the body to relax more than usual. Where this becomes problematic is when the muscles of the throat and neck relax too much. Smoking and drug use also increase your risks. Smoking causes swelling in the airway and triples your risk of sleep apnea. Opiates, especially long-acting ones like methadone, also increase your risk. 

Health

Having certain health issues can increase your risk of developing sleep apnea. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke can increase your risks. These health issues are also known complications from having untreated sleep apnea. Even something as seemingly benign as seasonal allergies can increase your risk.

Weight

Weight is a well known risk factor, but did you know you don’t have to be obese to develop obstructive sleep apnea? Studies show that a body mass index (BMI) of 25 is enough to cause difficulty breathing. The average BMI of a healthy adult should fall somewhere between 18.5 and 24.9. The greater your BMI, the greater your risk.

How To Prevent Sleep Apnea

The great news is that for most people sleep apnea is highly preventable. There are a lot of things you can do to address your risk factors. By addressing these you can prevent sleep apnea in you and your loved ones.

Surgery

While you have no control over your genetic risk factors, you can take steps to counteract them. Though rare, reducing some genetic risk factors may require surgery. Surgery may be indicated if you have:

  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Deviated septum
  • Enlarged turbinates
  • Nasal valve collapse
  • Underdeveloped or deformed lower jaw

It is important to note that surgical correction is rare. However, if you have one of these conditions, your doctor may recommend you for surgery.

Family Culture Shift

To prevent sleep apnea it is important to address any problematic aspects of your family culture. You can reduce your risks by working together as a family to eat healthier and be more active. You might also try establishing a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine. Studies show that irregular sleep patterns nearly double your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is a known complication and contributing factor in sleep apnea.

Lifestyle Changes

Making healthier lifestyle choices will also help you prevent sleep apnea. Smoking is an unhealthy habit to begin with. Your doctor may already be urging you to quit. There are many smoking cessation programs out there that can help. Reducing or eliminating alcohol, especially before bed, will also help to reduce your risks. You’ll also want to pay attention to your own personal sleep habits. As mentioned above your sleep schedule matters, but so do things like sleep environment and position. Making sure your room is a comfortable temperature and humidity will help. And avoid sleeping on your back. Episodes of OSA are much more common when sleeping on your back.

Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

Certain health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease all contribute to or worse sleep apnea. Reducing your risk factors for these conditions will also help you prevent sleep apnea. If you already have one of these conditions it is important to follow your doctor’s advice to keep them well controlled.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight will help you prevent sleep apnea. Pay special attention to your BMI as well and try to keep it below 25.

Seek Medical Advice

Sleep apnea is very common, and yet a surprising 80% of cases go undiagnosed. Of the 20% who do get diagnosed it usually only comes after a major health event or the insistence of their partner. Even just the short term effects of sleep apnea can have disastrous consequences. People suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea are twice as likely to be involved in a traffic accident. Left untreated it leads to many serious and life shortening health problems. If you or a loved one have concerns about developing sleep apnea please seek medical advice. Your doctor or a sleep apnea specialist, like those at Sleep Better Columbus, can help you identify and reduce your risks.

Want to prevent sleep apnea? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for more information!

Defend your oral device against infections

Defend your oral device against infections

Sleep is a vital component of every person’s health and well-being, especially for sleep apnea patients using an oral device to get adequate sleep. We recently received questions from patients about the safeguards one can take to properly disinfect their device and how to avoid potential misuse that could damage the device. To help clarify how to use the device properly and prevent damage to the device we have put together this resource so users can wear their device every night with confidence.

FAQ

  1. Should I be concerned about handling the device with my hands?
    You can insert or remove your device with your hands, but make sure to wash your hands thoroughly beforehand for at least 20 seconds. You can find the video about handwashing from CDC on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d914EnpU4Fo.
  2. Can I disinfect the device with alcohol?
    No, do not use alcohol on the device. Alcohol is a drying agent and can damage the material of your device, making it more susceptible to cracks. We also advise against putting your device in the microwave or heating it to “sterilize” it as this will only damage the device.
  3. Can I keep the device in the water?
    Whether you store your device in water or not depends on your device. Check your box for instructions. Most oral devices should be stored in a dry area that exposed to air and sunlight to prevent the growth of germs.
  4. Should I be concerned about the hygiene of the device if I left it exposed to open air?
    Washing your hands before inserting or removing your oral device, as well as properly cleaning and storing the device would prevent such contamination. According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, either between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Click here to download a printable version of this post.

Can Sleep Apnea be Cured?

Can Sleep Apnea be Cured?

If you received a diagnosis of sleep apnea, you might wonder ‘can sleep apnea be cured?’ This form of sleep disordered breathing affects millions of adults around the world. This translates into roughly 1 in 5 adults. Sleep apnea contributes to serious, life shortening health issues and doubles your risk of heart disease. Your diagnosis might have you feeling pretty overwhelmed. But here’s the good news. Sleep apnea is easily treatable! And often can even be cured.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops and starts several times an hour during sleep. These pauses in breathing can last anywhere from 5 seconds to several minutes. In mild cases breathing might stop as few as 5-15 times an hour. In more extreme cases these pauses can occur 30 or more times an hour. These pauses in breathing cause the blood oxygen levels to drop, triggering you to wake up.

These frequent sleep disruptions cause a lot of side effects. Symptoms may include:

  • Sore or dry throat
  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Mood changes, especially depression and irritability
  • Low libido

Snoring is the most easily recognized symptom but many of the others are easily missed. Many sufferers self-diagnose their symptoms as other issues. Researchers estimate that as many as 80 percent of cases go undiagnosed. The other 20 percent only seek medical advice after their apnea causes a major health event or their partner complains. 

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

There are two types of sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea the airway is partially or completely blocked. This obstruction is usually due to soft palate collapse. During sleep the soft tissues of the neck and throat relax, but with OSA they relax too much and close off the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common.

The other type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. This type is rare. With central sleep apnea breathing pauses because the brain fails to send proper signals to the body to continue breathing. Usually, this is due to some neurological defect or injury such as a serious head injury or stroke.

Can Sleep Apnea be Cured?

Yes! Many patients who have sleep apnea are able to control their symptoms or eliminate them. It is important to note that sleep apnea is a multifaceted health issue. You may need to use more than one of the methods below to cure your sleep apnea.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese is a common cause of obstructive sleep apnea. If you are overweight, your doctor will likely recommend that you lose a few pounds. This is especially important if you carry a lot of your weight around your midsection. Carrying extra weight around your middle puts strain on your heart. This strain contributes to many risk factors for sleep apnea. Extra weight around the neck and throat also make soft palate collapse more likely. Losing weight will take the strain off you of your heart, reducing your other risk factors. It will also help prevent soft palate collapse.

It is important to know that losing weight isn’t a permanent fix. You will need to keep the weight off too. Losing weight can cure your sleep apnea, but if you gain it back your symptoms may return.

Exercise

This may seem like a given, considering that exercise plays a key role in weight loss. But, exercise does a lot more than just help you maintain a healthy weight. People suffering from sleep apnea often complain of fatigue and frequent sleep disturbances. Regular exercise helps to strengthen your heart and lungs, improving your blood oxygen levels. A strong circulatory system ensures your body can meet its oxygen needs. Better oxygenation of the blood means fewer symptoms. Workouts that focus on breath control are especially helpful, such as walking, running, and yoga.

Improve Sleep Habits

Some sufferers only have difficulty breathing in certain sleeping positions. Usually the position that causes the most trouble is sleeping on your back. Side-sleeping helps prevent airway blockages from occurring. There are wedges and other sleep products that help discourage back-sleeping. These products can help train you to sleep on your side, preventing soft palate collapse. This may not be effective for people with more severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleeping at an incline can also help, especially for those who struggle to sleep on their side. Raising your head about 60 degrees during sleep will reduce symptoms. This is because it shifts your abdominal weight down away from your chest and neck. This makes breathing easier but also helps to prevent soft palate collapse. You can achieve this with a wedge, body pillows, sleeping in a recliner, or raising the head of your bed.

Lifestyle Changes

Healthy lifestyle changes will help to reduce your weight and other risk factors. But there are other lifestyle changes that can help cure your sleep apnea.

  • Quit Smoking – Smoking causes swelling in the upper airways, making them narrower. A narrower airway is more prone to collapse or obstruction. Quitting will reduce this swelling.
  • Avoid Alcohol – Drinking alcohol, especially before bed, relaxes the muscles of the throat. This increases the likelihood of snoring and airway collapse.
  • Allergy Medications – Nasal decongestants like allergy medications can help reduce swelling in the airways, improving airflow.
  • Use a Humidifier – Dry air can irritate your airway, causing swelling. A good humidifier will reduce this irritation and swelling.

Sleep Apnea Therapy

Sleep apnea therapy consists of using devices such as a CPAP or oral device. A CPAP uses positive air pressure to keep the airway from collapsing during sleep. This is the go-to treatment option prescribed by most doctors. It is an effective treatment and works for many patients.

An alternative to the traditional CPAP is the oral appliance. Oral appliances fit much like a sports mouthguard. An oral appliance shifts the lower jaw forward to prevent soft palate collapse. Because it fits inside the mouth an oral appliance is much more comfortable and less restrictive than a CPAP. Many patients find that they have greater success complying with their prescribed therapy. Better compliance means better sleep. With a custom fit oral appliance, like the ones available through Sleep Better Columbus, you can be certain you’ll have a comfortable fit.

Seek Medical Advice

The methods mentioned above are easy to implement. However, sleep apnea is a serious condition. You should consult with your doctor before making any changes to your prescribed therapy. Many of the symptoms of sleep apnea are easy to miss. Without proper monitoring your condition may not be as well controlled as you think. It is important to follow up with your doctor to ensure your condition continues to improve.

Can sleep apnea be cured? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for information.

Is Sleep Apnea A Disability?

Is Sleep Apnea A Disability?

Is sleep apnea a disability? If you suffer from this common form of sleep-disordered breathing, you might wonder if it is. It affects your ability to get restful sleep, increasing your risks for a variety of health and safety issues. But is it a disability?

What Is Sleep Apnea?

People with sleep apnea have a hard time breathing or stop breathing for several seconds during sleep. These episodes happen at least 5 times an hour. In the most extreme cases these episodes can last for several minutes and occur a few hundred times a night.

There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). With OSA the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. This partial or complete blockage prevents air from moving through the lungs.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is less common. CSA is the result of the brain failing to send proper signals to the muscles of the chest involved in breathing. The brain ‘forgets’ to breathe for several seconds to several minutes at a time.

Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

Someone suffering from sleep apnea may experience the following symptoms:
  • Loud snoring
  • Observable periods where breathing stops and starts
  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Dry mouth
  • Morning headaches
  • Frequent/sudden waking
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Changes in mood, especially depression or irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Decreased libido
You may not experience all these symptoms. Some sufferers only experience a handful of symptoms. Because many of these symptoms occur during sleep, many are not aware they have the condition. Others may write off their symptoms as something else. Researchers estimate that only approximately 20% of cases are ever diagnosed. Of those cases, most do not seek a diagnosis on their own. A diagnosis of SA is most common after a major adverse health event or after a partner complains.

Complications Of Sleep Apnea

Even mild cases of sleep apnea can cause a variety of health and safety issues. Left untreated sleep apnea contributes to the development of the following conditions:
  • High blood pressure, especially drug-resistant
  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Lung Problems
Many of these conditions also contribute to worsening symptoms of sleep apnea. But, these health issues are not all that make sleep apnea such a dangerous condition. Sleep apnea makes it impossible to get restful sleep. Sufferers report falling asleep many times throughout the day. OSA doubles your risk of workplace accidents. The risk is even higher if your job requires you to do a lot of driving, such as long haul trucking and public transport. Studies show mild to moderate sleep apnea doubles your risk of traffic accidents. For individuals with moderate to severe sleep apnea the risk is 15 times greater. Sleep apnea is the most important preventable cause of traffic and workplace accidents.

Is Sleep Apnea A Disability?

Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer lists sleep apnea as a disability. But, that doesn’t mean that you won’t qualify. Sleep apnea contributes to a wide range of physical and mental health issues that are recognized as disabilities.
 
For example, sleep apnea increases your risk of lung problems like chronic pulmonary hypertension. The Disability Evaluation Under Social Security has a section for respiratory problems. Chronic pulmonary hypertension is listing 3.09. Sleep apnea also contributes to many risk factors for chronic or congestive heart failure. These conditions are included under listing 4.02. There is a long list of criteria you must meet to qualify for disability under those diagnoses. Listing 12.02 covers ‘organic mental disorders’. As defined by the SSA:
Organic Mental Disorders, also referred to as chronic Organic Brain Syndromes, are afflictions of the brain that can lead to severe mental or behavioral problems. They may be permanent or temporary, and can be either hereditary or caused by injury, disease, or a structural or systemic defect in body chemistry or hormones. Organic Mental Disorders do not include disorders that result from substance abuse, nor do they include psychiatric disorders.
This definition covers many of the mental health issues that can result from chronic sleep apnea.

What If I Don’t Qualify?

Not everyone will qualify based on the criteria mentioned above. However, you may qualify based on your Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC. An RFC assessment determines what type of work you are still able to perform in spite of the limitations imposed by your condition. The SSA will look at how your symptoms and other conditions affect your job performance. For example, if you have heart problems as a result of your sleep apnea, you should not be lifting heavy objects. If you struggle with excessive daytime sleepiness, you should not be operating heavy machinery. The SSA may assess your mental RFC too if you have difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, or do not work well with others. You will qualify for benefits if your symptoms are severe enough that you are unable to work.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Not everyone with sleep apnea will qualify for disability whether through related diagnoses or their RFC assessment. But the good news is that sleep apnea is highly treatable. Long term solutions involve controlling risk factors that can worsen your symptoms. This might include losing weight or starting medication to control your diabetes or high blood pressure. But getting your underlying conditions under control will take time. You need a good night’s rest, and soon. The best ways to achieve quick relief from your symptoms is to begin sleep apnea therapy. Therapy typically includes the use of a CPAP or similar machine, an oral appliance, or both.
 
A CPAP is a machine that prevents airway obstruction by creating positive pressure in the airway. The masks required to create a seal around the nose and mouth can be heavy. Many patients have a hard time adjusting to sleeping with the mask on. Patients report they don’t wear it as often as they should.
 
An oral device fits in the mouth much like an athletic mouthguard. It prevents airway obstruction by shifting the jaw and tongue forward. This helps to eliminate soft palate collapse. A custom oral appliances will form to fit the size and shape of your mouth, providing comfortable, lightweight sleep apnea relief. At Sleep Better Columbus we know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. With the help of Dr. Mark Levy, we’ll find you just the right form and fit for your custom oral appliance. Our patients report a far better compliance rate with their custom oral appliance. And better compliance means better sleep.
 

Want to know if sleep apnea is a disability? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for more information.

Irregular Sleep Patterns May Double Heart Disease Risk

Irregular Sleep Patterns May Double Heart Disease Risk

Irregular Sleep Patterns May Double Heart Disease Risk

A new study conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggests that irregular sleep patterns may double your risk of heart disease. “Our study indicates that healthy sleep isn’t just about quantity but also about variability, and that this can have an important effect on heart health,” says Huang, the lead author on the study.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease describes conditions that affect how the heart functions. It can refer to heart defects or conditions that cause irregular heart beats. These diseases can also affect the tissues surrounding the heart, such as the blood vessels and arteries. Heart disease includes the following conditions:

  • Congenital Defects
  • Arrhythmia
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
  • Heart Failure
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Mitral Regurgitation
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse
  • Pulmonary Stenosis

According to the Center for Disease Control, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.” This translates into heart disease being the leading cause in 1 of every 4 deaths in the US.

Risk Factors

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are major risk factors for heart disease. According to the CDC, roughly half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these risk factors. Other health issues and lifestyle choices also increase your risk. These factors for heart disease include:

  • Age – Age increases your risk of a variety of health problems. As we age the tissues of the heart and arteries thicken, become weak, or simply break down over time.
  • Sex – Men are at increased risk of developing heart disease. Doctors believe this is due to where men carry most of their weight. A woman’s risk of heart disease increases after menopause.
  • Family History – Your genes may predispose you to developing certain types of heart disease. Your risk may be especially high if a parent developed heart disease at an earlier age than normal.
  • Diet – Diets high in fats, sugar, salt, and cholesterol can contribute to heart disease.
  • Diabetes – Diabetes shares many of the same risk factors as heart disease.
  • Obesity – Excessive weight gain worsens many of the other risk factors for heart disease.
  • Physical Inactivity – Less active, less fit individuals are more likely to develop high blood pressure. They are also more likely to develop diabetes and become obese.
  • Stress – Stress damages your arteries and worsens other risk factors.

Irregular Sleep Patterns: A Major Risk Factor

These risk factors are well documented by decades of studies and research. However, one major risk factor that has gone largely unresearched until now is sleep. “When we talk about interventions to prevent heart attacks and stroke, we focus on diet and exercise,” says Huang. “Even when we talk about sleep, we tend to focus on duration – how many hours a person sleeps each night – but not on sleep irregularity and the impact of going to bed at different times or sleeping different amounts from night to night.”

What we have learned from these decades of sleep studies is that sleep duration is very much a ‘Goldilocks’ zone. If you are getting too much or too little, your health outcomes decline. But when your amount of sleep is ‘just right’ health outcomes improve. These studies show that too much sleep has many of the same negative effects as too little sleep. And both contribute dramatically to many of the same risk factors for heart disease. According to a Gallup poll, the typical American adult gets less than 7 hours of sleep a night. While individual sleep needs may vary slightly, most people perform best on 8 hours of sleep a night. But if the duration of sleep was the only factor, then those who get 8 hours each night should have a lower risk, right? The study found that it may not be that simple.

The Brigham and Women’s Hospital study found that variation in bedtime and sleep duration had a major impact on health outcomes. The data showed those whose bed time varied by 90 minutes or more, and whose sleep duration varied by 2 or more hours a night were at the greatest risk. This group was “more likely to develop metabolic disorders such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.” As a result, this group also reported nearly double the number of heart problems and cardiovascular events.

How Do I Reduce My Risks?

Huang states that “Sleep regularity is a modifiable behavior. In the future, we’d like to explore whether changing one’s sleep patterns by going to bed consistently each night may reduce a person’s risk of future cardiovascular events.” There are many things you can do to ensure a more consistent bedtime, including the following:

  • Have a set bedtime
  • Don’t wait to feel sleepy before getting ready for bed
  • Turn off your phone, computer, and TV an hour before bed
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Have a nightly routine

Altering your habits to ensure a consistent bedtime and sleep duration should help reduce your risks.

Could Sleep Apnea Be To Blame?

The study did not address the causes of irregular sleep patterns, but they hypothesized that frequent waking was a factor. As many as 70 million US adults suffer from a some form of sleep disorder. The most common of which is Sleep Apnea.

Around 1 in 5 adults suffer from mild symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, with 1 in 15 having moderate to severe symptoms. Untreated, sleep apnea contributes to many of the same risk factors for heart disease. Unfortunately, most people who have the condition are unaware that they do. Researchers estimate that only about 20% of cases are ever diagnosed. If you have many of the same risk factors for heart disease or suspect you may not be getting restful sleep, speak with your doctor about sleep apnea.

Thankfully, sleep apnea is easy to treat. The usual, go-to treatment is to use a CPAP machine. With Obstructive Sleep Apnea the airway becomes partially or completely obstructed, preventing the movement of air through the lungs. The most common cause of obstruction is soft palate collapse. The soft tissues of the throat relax too much, blocking the airway. A CPAP works by pumping pressurized air into the airway to prevent airway collapse. However, CPAP masks are large, heavy, and often uncomfortable. As a result, patients often report low compliance with their prescribed sleep apnea therapy.

An equally effective, and less restrictive option is an oral appliance.  An oral appliance is a device designed to fit in the mouth. It shifts the lower jaw forward to prevent soft palate collapse. At Sleep Better Columbus we know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. And an uncomfortable heavy mask is not the best solution for most patients. We specialize in custom fitted oral appliances. We ensure you get the best fit for a better night’s sleep.

Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for more information about irregular sleep patterns.

How to Get a Good Night’s Rest with Sleep Apnea

How to Get a Good Night’s Rest with Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is the enemy of a good night’s rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have it. People are waking up exhausted, falling asleep at work or at the wheel, and at risk for high blood pressure (or worse). Fortunately, it is possible to get a good night’s sleep with sleep apnea. We’re going to discuss some of the ways you can do that.  

What is Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that prevents people from breathing normally at night. Breath is typically interrupted, meaning you could go around 10 seconds without breathing before you start again. This is usually due to the muscles in the throat contracting when they shouldn’t. The fragmented breathing causes a restless night’s sleep.  

Why Should I Treat my Sleep Apnea? 

If sleep apnea goes untreated, a lot of things can go wrong. The body needs sleep. Sleep helps with the clearing of toxins, the ability to concentrate, and the ability to fight off infections. Here are a few things that sleep apnea can cause if it goes untreated: 

  • Fatigue 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Heart attacks 
  • Congestive heart failure 
  • Cardiac arrhythmia 
  • Stroke 
  • Depression 
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety 

Knowing this, it’s probably best to look at treatment options as soon as possible. The good news is that there are many, many treatment options. As mentioned earlier, sleep apnea is common. Scientists have worked long and hard at finding ways for people to live with this and for people to be cured from this. Many treatments will allow you to lead a perfectly normally life with sleep apnea.  

What Kind of Treatment Should I Start With? 

If you’ve been properly diagnosed with sleep apnea by a professional (don’t diagnose yourself!) it’s time to start looking at ways to live with this. Any health professional will recommend two things to start with: proper diet and exercise.  

In order for you to heal from anything, your body needs to be strong enough to fight it off. It won’t be able to do that if it isn’t being treated properly. A diet low in saturated fats and high in whole grains will aid with weight loss. Getting healthy will also help with your energy levels and your ability to fight sleep apnea. Obesity is not only a symptom of sleep apnea – it’s a cause.  

Alongside proper diet and exercise, oral appliances are largely popular in the sleep apnea community. Let’s take some time to discuss those.  

What is a CPAP? 

The CPAP is a device constructed to aid in your air flow while you’re sleeping. It is plugged into a wall. You use it by placing a mask over your nose and mouth before bed each night. While you’re sleeping, it works to gently blow air through your nose and mouth, giving you a steady stream of oxygen while you sleep. It has helped millions of people in managing their sleep apnea. If used properly, the CPAP machine should allow you to wake up feeling refreshed. It should help in eliminating all symptoms of sleep apnea 

Unfortunately, many people don’t use it properly. It can be difficult to place the mask in the “perfect” position, and even if you do, it can slip around if you’re an aggressive sleeper. There are other downsides to using a CPAP. For example, it can be hard on your partner. The machine can be quite noisy, disrupting the sleep of the people around you. The CPAP isn’t very “romantic”, either. Forget leaning over to kiss your partner. They’d be met with a large plastic mask in their face. Another thing about the CPAP is that it isn’t always tolerated very well. It can rub against sensitive skin causing eczema outbreaks, or it can be too uncomfortable to sleep with. This is why the CPAP isn’t always the first thing that is recommended in the treatment of sleep apnea.  

What are Alternative Oral Appliances?  

Thankfully, there are other options for handling sleep apnea. One of the most popular solutions is the use of oral appliances other than the CPAP. Oftentimes, sleep apnea can be caused by a misaligned jaw, a small jaw, small upper airways, or a recessed chin. Simple oral appliances can help people get a good night’s sleep and enough oxygen. 

Some of the most common oral appliances are mouth guards. Mouth guards can be custom-fitted to be comfortable. Good oral appliances are usually the ones that you don’t notice while you’re sleeping. The only types of oral appliances that should be used are the ones that are created by dentists. It is always best to know where your appliances are coming from. Finding a place like Sleep Better Columbus with a caring and educated staff is your best bet. It is also important that all of the devices you choose to use are registered with the FDA. As long as you follow these guidelines, you can’t go wrong.  

After trying non-invasive approaches like mouth guards, you may see a significant decrease or elimination in your sleep apnea symptoms. This is the goal. Don’t settle for less than that. Remember that millions of people around the world suffer from sleep apnea, and they lead perfectly normal lives. As long as you’re diligent about wearing your mouth pieces and getting them from a qualified source, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be symptom-free.  

The Importance of Seeing a Specialist

Remember that as you’re going into this looking for treatment, you should always be looking to professionals for advice. Trying to fix it yourself (or even diagnosing yourself) won’t guarantee real help. It’s also best to only take sleep apnea tests administered by professionals rather than buying yourself one online (from an unreliable source). Most medical care professionals will either recommend an at-home sleep apnea test or they’ll ask you to spend the night being monitored in a medical facility. Both types of tests are perfectly safe and pain-free. 

Call Better Sleep Columbus at (614) 362-7292 to learn how to sleep with sleep apnea and discuss your options with a qualified professional. 

 

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