WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
SLEEP APNEA; types,causes,symptoms,diagnosis,treatment,home remedies.
WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s estimated that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, although the number of cases might be higher given that most cases go undiagnosed.
The condition is characterized by frequent pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. As a result of this interruption in breathing, sleep quality is compromised, making it difficult for individuals suffering from sleep apnea to get restful sleep, which can lead to several health problems.
In this article, we’ll delve into the details of sleep apnea, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
What Are The Types Of Sleep Apnea?
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea that occurs when the muscles of the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, resulting in blocked or restricted airflow. During obstructive apnea, the muscles in the mouth, throat, and tongue relax, or the tissues in the airway collapse, blocking the normal flow of air. This leads to snoring, choking, or gasping during sleep, and causes the person to wake up frequently throughout the night, affecting their sleep quality.
2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central sleep apnea is a rare type of sleep apnea that occurs when the brain fails to send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing. In people with CSA, the brain doesn't always tell the muscles to breathe, leading to repetitive periods of breathing cessation. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is usually not present in CSA. It can also be associated with other underlying health problems such as heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
3. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CSAS)
Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is a mixed condition that results from the combination of OSA and central sleep apnea. The condition is common in some people who use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy to treat OSA. Individuals with complex sleep apnea syndrome have difficulty adapting to the CPAP machine and experience central sleep apnea even though their OSA is well-controlled, making their treatment challenging.
What Are The Causes of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is caused by a variety of factors, which vary from one individual to another. The following are the most common causes of sleep apnea:
Obesity is considered one of the leading causes of sleep apnea. When an individual gains weight, the fat deposits accumulate in different parts of the body, including the neck. Excess weight around the neck can narrow the airway, making it difficult to breathe. As a result, sleep apnea can occur.
Research has shown that certain genetic factors can increase an individual’s risk of developing sleep apnea. If you have a family member who suffers from sleep apnea, you’re more likely to develop the condition.
3. Body structure
The structure of your mouth and airway can also play a role in sleep apnea. Individuals with a narrow airway, enlarged tonsils, or a large tongue or uvula are more likely to experience sleep apnea.
As individuals get older, their airway naturally becomes narrower, and the muscles that keep the airway open during sleep become weaker. Hence, sleep apnea is more common in older adults.
Sleep apnea is more common in men than in women. The exact reason for this is not known, but some researchers suggest that the difference in airway size between men and women could be a factor.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The most obvious symptom of sleep apnea is loud and chronic snoring. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone with sleep apnea snores. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
1. Feeling fatigued even after a full night’s sleep
3. Short-term memory loss
4. Restless sleep
5. Morning headaches
6. Waking up frequently during the night to use the bathroom
7. Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
8. Difficulty staying asleep
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to determine if you have sleep apnea.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Diagnosing sleep apnea requires a comprehensive medical evaluation, which may involve a physical exam, a sleep study, and a review of your medical history. Here are the most common ways to diagnose sleep apnea:
1. Physical exam
Your healthcare provider will examine your mouth, throat, and neck to assess your airway’s size and look for signs of inflammation, such as tonsil enlargement.
2. Sleep study
A sleep study involves spending a night in a sleep laboratory or using a diagnostic device at home that measures your heart rate, breathing, and other vitals while you sleep.
3. Review of medical history
Your healthcare provider will ask you about your history of snoring, whether you’ve had any previous breathing problems, and if you’ve ever been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Treatment options for Sleep Apnea
The treatment for sleep apnea depends on its severity and the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment options:
1. Lifestyle changes
In mild cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes can be very effective in reducing symptoms. Losing weight, avoiding sedatives or alcohol before bedtime, and sleeping on your side can all help alleviate mild sleep apnea.
2. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
CPAP is a common treatment for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask that delivers continuous air pressure to keep your airway open while you sleep. While it can be effective, some individuals find it uncomfortable.
3. Dental devices
Dental devices can help prevent the collapse of your airway by keeping your jaw forward while you sleep.
Surgery is usually a last resort for sleep apnea, reserved for severe cases. It usually involves removing excess tissue in your throat, repairing structural abnormalities, or implanting devices that help keep your airway open.
Home Remedies For Sleep Apnea
While it’s essential to consult a doctor for treatment if you suspect you have sleep apnea, there are some home remedies that may help reduce symptoms or prevent them from occurring in mild cases. Here are some home remedies that can help alleviate sleep apnea symptoms:
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is a leading cause of sleep apnea. Hence, maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the severity of symptoms or prevent the condition from occurring. Losing weight can help reduce the amount of fat surrounding the airway, thus reducing constriction and improving breathing during sleep.
2. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep hygiene is essential for those with sleep apnea. A conducive sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet can improve sleep quality. Additionally, create a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
3. Sleep on Your Side
Sleeping on your back increases the risk of sleep apnea. Hence, sleeping on your side can help reduce symptoms. You can try various methods like using a full-body pillow or sewing a tennis ball into the back of your pajamas to prevent you from sleeping on your back.
4. Quit Smoking
If you smoke, quitting can significantly reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Smoking irritates the airways, causing inflammation and swelling that narrows the passage of air to the lungs, making breathing more difficult. It also damages the lungs that can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a common cause of sleep apnea.
5. Avoid Alcohol and Sedatives
Alcohol and sedatives can cause the muscles in the throat to relax, making it easier for obstructive sleep apnea to occur. Hence, avoid consuming alcohol and sedatives before bedtime.
Keeping hydrated is essential for overall health and can help reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. Dehydration can cause the nasal passages and throat to dry up, making breathing more difficult during sleep.
7. Use Essential Oils
Some essential oils like lavender and peppermint oil have a calming effect on the body, promoting relaxation and deep sleep. You can inhale them by using an essential oil diffuser or applying them to your pillow.
However, it’s important to note that home remedies are not a substitute for medical treatment. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, seek medical advice before trying any home remedies.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can lead to several health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, with early detection and treatment, individuals with sleep apnea can lead healthy lives without significant interruption to their daily routines. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider for a medical evaluation as soon as possible.