Sleep Apnea: A Sleeping Disorder
Sleep apnea is defined as “transient cessation of breathing.” It’s basically a disorder that occurs when your body forgets to breathe. It could be due to physical obstruction or simply laziness on your subconscious’ part…
Because you are sleeping when it occurs, you would rarely know that you are affected by this disorder as it happens. However, a bed partner may well be aware of it before you.
Two Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This is the one that occurs because of a physical obstruction in the path of your breathing. It could be caused by a temporary ailment (e.g., cold, flu, etc.) or perhaps your physical body itself. The most common reason for obstructive sleep apnea is the soft walls of the throat softening and relaxing as you fall asleep. These walls end up blocking the path in your throat and as such create the obstruction. It is believed that 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mild obstructive sleep apnea. You can read about some treatment options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea here.
- Central Sleep Apnea. This is caused by a temporary failure of your neurological controls. The signal normally sent to your body to inhale and start another breathing cycle somehow does not get transmitted. The obvious danger with central sleep apnea is that the level of oxygen in your blood will continue to decrease and the level of carbon monoxide (CO2) will continue to increase, increasing the chances of brain damage and even death. The good news is that it is quite rare to suffer from such powerful central sleep apnea.
Are You at Risk of Getting Sleep Apnea?
Studies show that obese people have a greater chance of suffering from obstructive sleep apnea due to the additional skin, weight of tissues, etc.
Taking depressants (some clinical drugs, alcohol, etc.) affects your neurological controls and can increase your odds of having central sleep apnea.
How Long is Too Long?
Most differentiate between a regular pause between breathing and sleep apnea by the time elapsed. For an adult, a pause lasting more than 10 seconds between two breaths is considered sleep apnea.
I hope that this information on sleep apnea was useful. Learn how to improve your sleep here.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Many people who suffer from sleep apnea use a Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) mask. It’s one of the most common treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
The problem with CPAP masks is that some people feel claustrophobic while wearing them, or the straps aren’t comfortable. If that’s the case for you and if you’ve had your mask for a few years, you should talk to your sleep specialist or doctor and ask about the latest CPAP masks, which are lighter, quieter and more comfortable.
That being said, there are many other alternatives, which we’ll discuss on this page.
Amongst the non-medical treatment options, you’ll find chinstraps that are unobtrusive and comfortable, and which decrease snoring and the likelihood of apnea episodes by slightly repositioning your lower jaw while sleeping.
Don’t want to wear anything while sleeping?
Making some lifestyle changes may help reduce mild to moderate apnea. Here are some examples:
- Lose weight: If you’re overweight, by losing even a small amount of weight, the throat could open up a bit more while sleeping and therefore reduce symptoms.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol: Alcohol and drugs like sleeping pills and sedatives can relax your throat muscles, which then interferes with breathing, therefore increasing your symptoms.
- Become a non-smoker: Smoking can inflame the throat and cause fluid retention in your upper airway and throat. By giving up smoking, you may reduce your symptoms.
- Sleep on a schedule and on your side: By going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, you’ll increase your quality of sleep, which may help decrease the number of sleep apnea events. Sleeping on your side (instead of on your back) may also help.
Medical Treatment Options
If you’ve tried every self-help treatment out there or if you have severe apnea, you may have to resort to medical treatment options.
Fortunately, new technology and discoveries have allowed for great improvements in treatment options over the last decades.
You should contact your doctor or sleep specialist and get a solution that would treat the underlying medical condition, provide you with additional oxygen while sleeping, or improve airflow by reducing obstructions in the airway.
Surgery to increase the size of your airway may be an option for those with extremely severe apnea.
Talk to your doctor for more information about the best options for you.