Sleep apnea is a common and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder where breathing frequently stops and starts again as you sleep. Here’s a list of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea as well as ways to cope with and treat this disorder.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three main forms of sleep apnea, which are obstructive, central, and complex sleep.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common and occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes during sleep and blocks your airways.
- Central sleep apnea involves the central nervous system and occurs when the brain fails to tell the body to breathe during sleep. This type of sleep apnea is very rare.
- Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Signs and symptoms of any of the above three forms of sleep apnea may include:
- Snoring excessively
- Frequent snorting or gasping for air throughout the night
- Pauses in breathing
- Frequent daytime fatigue or sleepiness
- Waking up at night feeling short of breath
Some common risk factors that increase the likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea can include:
- Being overweight
- People who regularly take sleeping pills
- Having high blood pressure
- Having a history of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders in your family
- Having a thick neck
- Being Hispanic, African-American, or a Pacific Islander
- Additionally, men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women
Coping Methods and Treatments
There are many lifestyle changes that you can make to cope with your sleep apnea. For example:
- Avoid drinking caffeine or eating a heavy meal at least two hours before bedtime.
- Lose weight: People who are overweight have can develop an enlarged tissue at the back of their throat that may fall and block their airways. Even a minimal amount of weight loss can open up the throat and relieve severe sleep apnea symptoms.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can exacerbate your sleep apnea because it causes your airways to be inflamed and fluid to be retained in your throat. It also weakens your lung capacity.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or taking sedatives, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, or antihistamines that make you drowsy right before bed.
- Exercise regularly and make healthy nutrition choices.
- Maintain good sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Having a strict sleep regimen can actually help you relax and sleep better, which will lessen your sleep apnea symptoms.
There are also several steps that you can take at bedtime to help relieve your sleep apnea symptoms, which include:
- Sleep with your head propped up
- Sleep on your side
- Use nasal spray right before bed to ensure that your nasal passages are clear
- If you chew gum 10 minutes before bed, this can help strengthen your mouth muscles and help you to keep your mouth closed at night.
Sometimes, sleep apnea may be the result of an underlying cause such as heart disease or a neuromuscular disorder. That’s why it’s important to seek the advice and help of a sleep specialist so that they can find out what’s causing your sleep apnea – be it something simple or something more complex.
If you have any questions about what’s causing your sleep apnea or how you can manage the symptoms, be sure to reach out to Dr. Shukla at your earliest convenience.