Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder, and often the people that have it don’t even realize that they have it. In this article, we’ll quickly go through the types of sleep apnea, it’s causes, symptoms and some conventional, and not so conventional, treatments.
Sleep Apnea – Symptoms and Types
Sleep Apnea is the technical name for a condition where you momentarily pause breathing, or have very shallow breathing, for a short time while you are asleep. This pause can be as short as a few seconds or as long as a few minutes, and it happens five to thirty times and hour (for really serious cases, it can be more!).
The actual pause in breathing is called an apnea, and it is defined into three separate categories:
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is a very minor (30 are at a higher risk of OSA. Sometimes losing just a bit of weight is enough to reduce the obstruction to it’s not impeding your breathing.
- Don’t use muscle relaxants – so check your medication (it could be part of it and you don’t even know). This could cause the obstruction to “relax” and fall back into your airway. If you take a sleeping pill – make sure it doesn’t do this as well.
- No alcohol – it relaxes your muscles. So if you drink, make sure it’s out of your system before you lie down to sleep.
- Sleep partially sitting up. Researchers find that a sleeping angle of about 30 degrees can prevent an obstruction from blocking airways.
- Sleep on your side versus your back. Sewing a tennis ball into your night shirt or pajamas is a common way of dealing with this – it prevents you from rolling on your back.
- Quit Smoking. This has so many health ramifications, are you surprised it’s here too? Don’t be. Smoking affects respiration.
- This last one, as strange as it sounds, has been proven to work for many. Practice the didgerido! It’s thought that it strengthens the mouth and throat muscles so much that the OSA doesn’t present itself at night.
- Same with some selected mouth and tongue exercises – strengthening these muscles helps!
So these are some easy things that you can and should do.
First, confirm with your doctor that you actually have sleep apnea – this will involve some kind of sleep study along with some discussion of your next day fatigue. Next, try the steps listed above – some of them can be lifestyle changing (losing weight, no alcohol, quit smoking, taking up the didgeridoo) but if they work, you might just live longer.
If these tips don’t work, or if your sleep apnea is pretty serious, consider some of the longer term strategies seriously – surgery, implants or appliances. They may involve more discomfort (and expense) up front, but the long term results from them is much better.
People that learn to rely on their CPAP machine regularly stop using it, as it is disruptive to their life. But for the short term – it’s the most common way to start getting a better night’s sleep.
Remember that this is a very serious condition – people die from it. So take whatever steps you need to resolve it.
Who knows – there may be a whole new you in the post-apnea world!