Obstructive Sleep Apnea
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What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

It is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. It causes you to stop and start breathing repeatedly during sleep.

There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea or snoring. This type of apnea occurs when your neck muscles relax intermittently and block your airway during sleep. A prominent symptom of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. (Source)

Symptoms of this Sleeping Disorder: 

Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  1. Excessive daytime sleepiness
  2. Loud snoring
  3. Observed episodes of respiratory arrest during sleep
  4. Sudden awakening accompanied by gasping or suffocation
  5. Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  6. Morning headache and difficulty concentrating during the day
  7. Mood changes such as depression or irritability
  8. High blood pressure, decreased libido, and restlessness. 
sleep disorder

Treatment: 

Treatment for this is available. One treatment involves using a device that uses positive pressure to keep your airway open while you sleep. Another option is a mouthpiece, which you use to push your lower jaw forward while you sleep. In some cases, surgery may also be an option.

Urgently consult a doctor if you notice the following:

  1. Waking up gasping for breath or choking
  2. Stopping breathing during sleep
  3. Excessive daytime sleepiness can cause you to fall asleep while working, watching TV, or even driving.

Snoring does not necessarily mean anything potentially serious, and not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea.

Ask the doctor about sleep problems that leave you chronically tired, sleepy, and irritable. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be caused by other disorders such as narcolepsy.

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Causes: 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the neck relax too much to allow normal breathing. These muscles support structures including the back of the mouth, soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate, tonsils, and tongue.

When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes when you inhale, making it difficult to breathe for ten seconds or more. This can lower blood oxygen levels and cause carbon dioxide to build up. The brain notices this impaired breathing and briefly wakes you up from sleep to reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it.

This pattern may repeat five to thirty times or more every hour, all night long. These disorders impair your ability to achieve deep, restful stages of sleep, and you are likely to feel drowsy during waking hours.

The worst part, people with obstructive sleep apnea may not be aware of their interrupted sleep. Many people with this type of sleep apnea don’t realize that they didn’t sleep well all night.

sleep apnea

Risk factors: 

Factors that put one at increased risk, include:

  1. Overweight: Fatty deposits around the upper airways can obstruct breathing. Medical conditions that are associated with obesity, such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome, can also cause obstructive sleep apnea.
  1. Narrowed airways: You may inherit a naturally narrow airway. Or your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged and block your airway.
  1. High blood pressure or hypertension: Obstructive sleep apnea is quite common in people with hypertension.
  1. People who smoke are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
  1. Obstructive sleep apnea may be more common in people with diabetes.

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Facts: 

  1. The risk of obstructive sleep apnea increases with age but appears to level off after the 60s and 70s.
  1. In general, men are two to three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than women before menopause. The frequency of obstructive sleep apnea increases in postmenopausal women.
  2. Having family members with obstructive sleep apnea may increase your risk.
  1. Obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias, which can lower blood pressure. If there is underlying heart disease, these repeated episodes of arrhythmias can lead to sudden death.
  1. Children and young people with obstructive sleep apnea may perform poorly in school and commonly have problems with attention or behavior.

Precautions: 

  1. Lose weight if you are overweight and exercise regularly.
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Do not drink for several hours before bedtime. Stop smoking if you are a regular smoker.
  3. Don’t sleep on your back.
  4. Avoid taking sedative medications such as anti-anxiety medications or sleeping pills.
  5. Take this medical condition seriously and don’t avoid doctor appointments. 

Home Remedies: 

1. Maintain a healthy weight

Doctors commonly recommend that people with sleep apnea lose weight. Obesity, specifically in the upper body, can increase the risk of airway obstruction and narrow nasal passages. These obstructions can cause you to stop breathing suddenly or for long periods of time during sleep.

2. Try yoga

Regular exercise can increase your energy levels, strengthen your heart, and improve sleep apnea. Yoga can specifically improve your breathing power and encourage oxygen flow.

Sleep apnea is associated with reduced blood oxygen saturation. Yoga can improve oxygen levels through various breathing exercises. As a result, yoga reduces the number of sleep interruptions you may experience.

sleep apnea

3. Change your sleeping position

Even if it’s a small change, changing your sleeping position can reduce sleep apnea symptoms and improve your night’s rest.

4. Use a moisturizer

Humidifiers are devices that add moisture to the air. Dry air can irritate the body and respiratory system. Using a humidifier can open up the airways, reduce congestion and promote clearer breathing.

5. Avoid alcohol and smoking

Lifestyle changes can improve your health and promote better sleep habits. Consider quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake to reduce the complications of sleep apnea.

Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat that control your breathing. This can lead to snoring and interrupted sleep cycles. It can also lead to inflammation in the airways and block airflow.

6. Use oral aids

Oral appliances can help with sleep apnea by repositioning your jaw or tongue to keep your airway open while you sleep.