Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder which causes difficulty breathing during sleep. The phenomenon is caused when the soft tissue of the throat, tongue or nasal passage relaxes during rest, which restricts the passage of air into the lungs.
While mild sleep apnea is often nothing more than a nuance, acute cases can cause long-term damage to your physical and mental wellbeing.
Luckily, there’s a range of treatments and remedies which can reduce, or even eliminate the effects of sleep apnea in most sufferers.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a common malady among people who suffer from excessive snoring, although it’s possible for people who do not snore at all to develop apnea.
Sleep Apnea Signs
A hallmark indicator of sleep apnea is strained or erratic breathing during sleep, which may be accompanied by suddenly waking up gasping for air. Often it’s the partner or family members of sleep apnea patients who first notice these side effects.
Another tell-tale sign of sleep apnea is a constant feeling of tiredness, even after a full night of sleep. The restricted breathing pattern of sleep apnea sufferers causes a lack of oxygen during sleep, which is essential for proper rest. People who suffer from sleep apnea often try to sleep longer to correct the feeling of tiredness, which only exacerbates the problem.
Other minor indicators of sleep apnea include bad breath, headaches and a sore throat in the morning.
Sleep Apnea Condition Assessment
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, then you’ll need to confirm that you have sleep apnea and assess the seriousness of your condition.
A good way to do this from home is to use a sleep monitoring application for your smartphone or tablet. Start the app shortly before you go to sleep, and leave the device near your pillow. The app will record audio of your snoring throughout the night which will help you to identify problems with your breathing. You can add tags to your sleep log to find any factors which may have an impact on your breathing pattern. These factors can be reviewed at the end of each week to help you identify which variables affect your sleep apnea. For example, you may notice from your sleep logs that sleeping on your side leads to fewer apnea episodes than sleeping on your back.
If you think you have sleep apnea, then you should consider getting checked out by a physician. Your doctor will typically conduct an interview with you about your sleeping patterns, as well as a brief checkup of your mouth and nose.
If the physician thinks you may have sleep apnea, then you’ll need to take part in a sleep study. Polysomnogram studies take place overnight at a specialist facility, while home sleep studies are conducted from your own bed using a portable sleep monitor.
Both studies work in a similar fashion, however, a polysomnogram is much more advanced. While both systems will record your heart rate, blood oxygenation and the amount of air that travels through your nose, a polysomnogram will also record your brain activity, eye movements and blood pressure. By analyzing this data, a doctor will be able to accurately diagnose if you have sleep apnea.
If you do suffer from sleep apnea then there are several treatments available which can reduce, or even eliminate the symptoms. By carefully identifying the type and severity of apnea you suffer from, it’s possible to drastically improve the quality of your sleep without much interference.
The easiest way to tackle sleep apnea is to identify which of your lifestyle habits adversely affects your sleep apnea. Obesity is the most common reason for people to develop sleep apnea. Losing excess body fat will reduce the amount of soft tissue in your throat, which will, in turn, prevent your airway from collapsing as much.
Sleeping on your side and avoiding tobacco or alcohol several hours before you sleep are great ways to immediately increase the quality of your sleep. Always make sure you are well hydrated before sleeping, and take a glass of water to bed with you during the night. Have a sip of water if your wake up at any point during the night in order to keep your throat moist.
Over The Counter Treatments
There are several medicines and appliances which can be bought in-store to help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea.
People who suffer from a collapsing nostril during sleep can wear a small device which clips into the nose and keeps the airways dilated. Alternatively, there’s a sleep apnea strip which accomplishes the same task with adhesive tape over your nose.
If your sleep apnea is caused by your throat collapsing then you can use a sleep apnea mouthpiece. These are gum-shield devices which gently push your jaw forward and keep your tongue from falling towards the back of your mouth. Most are made of a special plastic which can be molded to the shape of your mouth from home. These can take a while to get used to, but most long term users become completely accustomed to sleeping while wearing a mouthpiece.
Medicinal treatment for sleep apnea comes in the form of throat and nasal sprays. These are usually comprised of harmless chemicals which cause the muscles in your throat to stay firm throughout the night, instead of becoming loose and blocking your air passage. The downside to throat sprays is the fact that they are usually accompanied by an uncomfortable stinging feeling and a bad taste. The benefit of apnea sprays tends to wear off quickly, so you may need to reapply the formula if you wake up during the night.
The most severe cases of sleep apnea are usually treated with specialist medical equipment. A continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) may be recommended to you by your physician if other methods of treatment don’t sufficient results.
A CPAP machine is a type of ventilator which gently blows a continuous flow of air through a face and nose mask, which is worn throughout the night. This airflow stents the lungs’ alveoli open, which increases the surface area of the lungs, allowing more oxygen into the blood. The constant pressure from the machine also prevents the throat and nose from collapsing.
Thedownside of the CPAP machine is the fact that most people find wearing a ventilator mask during sleep highly uncomfortable. However, patients with severe sleep apnea generally find the discomfort a small price to pay for a night of undisturbed sleep.
While tackling sleep apnea can seem daunting at first, it’s one of the few clinical disorders that can be remedied almost entirely from home. By changing your lifestyle habits, and buying a few inexpensive sleeping aides, you’ll see a reduction in apnea and snoring that will give you and your loved ones a better night sleep.