Unless we get woken up in the middle of the night by our bed partner snoring, most of us dont think that snoring is worth any major concern, other thhan it being a little irritating. However frequent and loud snoring may be indictative of a condition known as sleep apnea where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during your sleep.
Sleep apnea affects the way that you breathe during sleep, it can become very shallow or even stop. These breathing pauses can last between 10 and 20 seconds and can occur upto 100 times a night and can jolt you out of your normal sleeping pattern. As a result you spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep, which you need in order to be energetic, mentally sharp and productive the next day.
This chronic sleep deprivation can result in feeling sleepy, slower reflexes and poor concentration. Over time it can lead to serious health problems like diabees, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and weight gain.
During a sleep apnea episode the oxygen level in your blood drops due to the pausing of airflow into your body. Your brain responds by disturbing your sleep enough to kick start breathing again. Sometimes this is recognised by a gasp or choking sound as you start breathing again. Most of the time you stir just enough to tighten your throat muscles to open your windpipe. These stirrings may or may not br remembered by the sufferer depending on the type of sleep apnea you suffer from and what the main cause is.
– Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes during sleep and blocks the airway, often causing you to snore loudly. You may not be aware of stirring in the night.
– Central sleep apnea is a much less common type of sleep apnea that involves the central nervous system, occurring when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing. People with central sleep apnea seldom snore. You are likely to be aware of any stirrings in your sleep.
– Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
If pauses occur while you snore, and if choking or gasping follow the pauses, these are major signs that you have sleep apnea.
Another common sign of sleep apnea is fighting sleepiness during the day, at work, or while driving. You may find yourself rapidly falling asleep during the quiet moments of the day when you’re not active. Even if you don’t have daytime sleepiness, talk with your doctor if you have problems breathing during sleep.
Other common signs and symptoms include:
– Morning headaches
– Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
– Feeling irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes
– Waking up frequently to urinate
– Dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up
Sleep apnea is a treatable condition through various self-help and medical treatments. Keeping sleep diaries and in consultation with your doctor you can try the various methods to see which one/ones help your particular case.
Other lifestyle changes that can help sleep apnea include:
– Quit Smoking – Smoking is believed to contribute to sleep apnea by increasing inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway.
– Losing weight – People who are overweight have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep. Losing just 10% of body weight can have a big effect on sleep apnea symptoms. In some cases, losing a significant amount of weight can even cure the condition.
– Avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives – especially before bedtime as they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing.
– Avoiding caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed.
– Maintaining regular sleep hours – Sticking to a steady sleep schedule will help you relax and sleep better. Apnea episodes decrease when you get plenty of sleep.
– Throat exercises – these may reduce the severity of sleep apnea by strengthening the muscles in the airway, making them less likely to collapse. There are many and various different techniques available.
Bedtime tips to help improve sleep:
– Sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your back, as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway.
– Prop your head up. Elevate the head of your bed by four to six inches or elevate your body from the waist up by using a foam wedge.
– Open your nasal passages. Try to keep your nasal passages open at night using a nasal dilator, saline spray, breathing strips, or a neti pot.
Medical treatment options for sleep apnea :
If your sleep apnea is moderate to severe, or you’ve tried self-help strategies and lifestyle changes without success, it’s important to see a doctor. They can refer you to a sleep specialist who can evaluate your symptoms and help you find an effective treatment.
Treatments for central and complex sleep apnea usually include:
– Treating the underlying medical condition causing the apnea, such as a heart or neuromuscular disorder
– Using supplemental oxygen while you sleep
– Using breathing devices that will also manage obstructive sleep apnea
Medications are only available to treat the sleepiness associated with sleep apnea, not the apnea itself, so they should only be used in conjunction with other proven sleep apnea treatments.
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reference : http://www.helpguide.org