Almost everyone snores, but excessive snoring may be a sign of a potentially serious medical condition called sleep apnea. This disorder interferes with your ability to breathe while you sleep. Sleep apnea can cause several serious side effects, but you can reduce the impact of sleep apnea with proper treatment.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by regular interruptions of breathing. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, your throat muscles relax while you sleep. As they relax, your throat collapses on itself, blocking your airway. Central sleep apnea, however, happens when your brain fails to tell your lungs to breathe. In either case, your body can’t get the oxygen it needs for a few seconds.
How Can You Tell if You Have Sleep Apnea?
The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud, habitual snoring; however, many people with sleep apnea don’t snore. You may feel tired all day, even after a full night of sleep, and you may fall asleep during regular activities. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may also experience a dry mouth, sore throat or headache in the morning. The most telling symptom of sleep apnea, however, is a periodic interruption in your breathing. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, you can schedule a test at a sleep lab to confirm your self-diagnosis.
What Are the Dangers of Sleep Apnea?
Even mild sleep apnea can have serious side effects. You may develop high blood pressure as a result of your sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also increases your risk of developing a serious heart condition, and sleep apnea can even trigger heart failure or a stroke. If you undergo a major surgery, your sleep apnea may increase your risk of a fatal response to general anaesthesia.
Can Sleep Apnea be Treated?
Thankfully, there are several effective treatments for sleep apnea. You can relieve mild sleep apnea with simple behavioural changes. Avoid alcohol consumption just prior to bed; alcohol relaxes your muscles and makes you more susceptible to sleep apnea. Alter your sleeping position; sleeping on your side or your stomach will reduce the pressure on your throat muscles, lowering your risk of experiencing sleep apnea. Finally, you can lose weight, especially if you are overweight. Fat deposits can shrink the size of your airway.
You may need a specialized machine to treat more severe sleep apnea, however. The most common device prescribed to treat sleep apnea is called a continuous positive airway pressure machine, often called a CPAP machine. The most basic CPAP machine includes a small air pump fitted to a mask. The mask fits over your face while you sleep, supplying an air flow to keep you breathing throughout the night. Many machines include features to improve the comfort of the device, including mask liners, humidifiers and flexible chin straps. Although some people struggle to adapt to the machine, most people experience significant improvement after using it.
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Lisa Morrow is a blogger from Brampton, Ontario and suggests Profmed Healthcare Solutions for anyone with sleep apnea that needs to buy a CPAP machine & accesories.