What is Sleep Apnea?
Snoring is extremely common among adults. Half of people snore at least some point in their lives. Statistics show that around 25% of people snore habitually. Maybe you have a partner that’s keeping you up at night, or maybe you snore and you don’t even know it! Snoring is so common that people often overlook the fact that it’s not a healthy sign. Despite popular belief, snoring doesn’t mean you’re sleeping deeply. It is often a sign of a problem.
There are several sleep conditions associated with snoring, but one of the biggest is a condition called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is categorized as a sleep disorder, and it involves the throat. When a person has sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat don’t do a great job at keep the airway open. This doesn’t make for the best night’s sleep. Oftentimes, a person will stop breathing for up to 10 seconds while the throat is closing up. This leads to issues with blood pressure and it leads to a terrible night’s sleep. If you snore and you wake up exhausted every morning, you might have it.
If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, it’s good to be seen for it. The sooner you can get it diagnosed, the sooner you can work on eliminating it. If you are diagnosed, it’s no time to panic. The National Sleep Foundation says that more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea – and that isn’t even including all of the other countries! It is extremely common. And the good news? It is completely curable.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can occur for several reasons in many different types of people. No one is excluded from getting sleep apnea, but certain groups of people do have a higher risk of getting it. Certain risk factors for sleep apnea include (but are not limited to):
- Small upper airways
- Family history
- A small jaw
- A recessed chin
- Excessive alcohol use
- Age (40 and over)
- Ethnicity (Hispanics, African-Americans, and Pacific Islanders have a higher risk)
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
As we’ve discussed, snoring is usually the tell-tale symptom of sleep apnea. But did you know that there are other symptoms to look out for? Some of these symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Falling asleep anywhere (like at work!)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Learning difficulties
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Once you are properly diagnosed (make sure you see a professional – don’t diagnose yourself!) it is time to take action. Sleep apnea doesn’t go away on its own. Dietary changes or medical interventions are needed if you want more energy and better sleep. When you’re presented with your options, it can be overwhelming. Every medical professional will have their own opinion, and it can be difficult to choose what you want your next steps to be. First, let’s take a look at the options that will be presented to you.
The most common change you will be asked to make is with your lifestyle. People often have sleep apnea due to an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise. After a certain age, losing weight becomes much more difficult. There are quite a few options to look at when trying to lose weight. If you haven’t started with your diet and mobility, you will be asked to do that first.
Sleep apnea diets can be a large change for some people. Certain foods need to be avoided, and other foods need to be consumed much more frequently. A diet high that’s high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is essential, and the avoidance of heavy, greasy foods is also highly recommended. Alcohol needs to be completely cut out of your diet if you want to lose weight and feel healthy. Foods high in saturated fats often lead to obesity, so you’ll need to cut out things like red meat and fast food. Quitting smoking will also come highly recommended.
You’ll also be asked to exercise at least 30 minutes per day. This can be anything from taking a walk each day to doing high-intensity cardio. You should always start small, especially if you’ve been sedentary. Nothing deters an exercise routine like going “all in” immediately, only to disappoint yourself and quit. Start small and gradually increase your cardio at your own pace until you’re comfortable.
If you have given diet and exercise a real try but it isn’t curing your sleep apnea, other measures will be taken.
CPAP machines are extremely popular for the sleep apnea population. It’s essentially a mask that you wear at bedtime every single night. It covers your nose and mouth and gently pushes air through a tube so that you get a steady source of oxygen throughout the night. These work wonderfully for some people. For others, they’re a great challenge. For one thing, they’re not exactly easy on your partner. They’re often quite loud. They’re also uncomfortable and they limit your sleeping positions. People with sensitive skin may also have problems with a CPAP, as it can be aggressive around the nose and mouth area.
Oral appliances are often preferable to the CPAP because they’re less invasive. Dental devices can help with the positioning of your jaw when you’re sleeping, allowing more air to flow through your throat. These kinds of options can be wonderful for people who don’t tolerate the CPAP or who don’t want to try the CPAP. Not only are they less invasive, they’re also much easier to use. Oral appliances like the ones at Sleep Better Columbus (614-362-7292) could greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms of sleep apnea and improve the quality of your life.
You’ll certainly have your pick when it comes to sleep apnea interventions. You’re not going to have to try anything you’re uncomfortable with. Sleep apnea can be a little scary. The good news is that with proper care, you’ll be just fine.
Call Sleep Better Columbus at 614-362-7292 for a free consultation and friendly options.