Sleep apnea - Overview, Symptions, Diagnosis, Treatments
Sleep Apnea: What is it?
It’s a serious condition that causes disruption to your breathing during sleep. If it goes untreated there can be serious consequences. See your doctor if you think you have the condition.
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Am I at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. However, risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Male gender
- Being overweight
- Being over the age of forty
- Having a large neck size
- Having larger tonsils
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
The symptoms of sleep apnea:
Being overweight; both loud and (to a lesser extent) light snoring; fighting for breath during the night; being tired and irritable during the day due to disruptive sleep patterns; night time headaches; insomnia; heartburn; frequent trips to the toilet during the night.
There’s two types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea: This is where the loose skin (soft palate) at the back of the throat collapses and partially blocks the airways. This is where the snoring sound comes from when air is exhausted out through this loose matter and vibrates it. Back sleeping usually compounds the problem as the loose skin falls down and impedes the throat, whereas side sleeping usually ensures that the soft palate falls more to the side of the airway and that is why side sleeping is recommended for snorers.
Constriction of the airway is also an issue created by an increase in fatty deposits around the neck. A lack of air (oxygen) entering the lungs is the result, and this is when noticeable pauses occur in breathing, sometimes up to 60 seconds or more. See your doctor if this is happening! Light (annoying) snoring is also a condition that needs attention. Losing weight is invariable the answer. But still see your doctor!
Central sleep apnea: This is when the brain is deprived of oxygen due to a restriction of air entering the airway, and signals sent to the lungs to breathe become spasmodic. In other words the lungs are not getting the command to breathe, regularly. This is when breathing becomes irregular, and you wake up startled and gasping for air. See your doctor!
What can you do about a sleep apnea condition?
If you (or your partner!) thinks you have a sleep apnea issue, then see your doctor. That said, there are ways which you can employ to help yourself minimise the condition, and the first is to
Lose weight: The more you can dilute fatty tissue within the neck area, the better the airway aperture. Yourself and your partner will notice your snoring abate over time if you lose weight. It is just about guaranteed!
Been tired: Of course age and a ‘tired’ soft palate will always be an issue. The older we get the more that floppy skin within the airway will get in the road, but SIDE SLEEPING can help, and you can always get into a contoured pillow which will encourage side sleeping as well as the natural alignment of the spine during sleep
Alcohol: And then there’s ALCOHOL! This fatigues the throat muscles. Relaxes them. Once again the soft tissues within the throat flop around, get in the road. Minimise your alcohol intake if you want to minimise your snoring!
And then of course if all else fails there is the SURGICAL TREATMENT. These treatments include removing excess tissue within the airway, repositioning the tongue slightly forward, and of course moving the upper and lower jaw forward. But this is a last resort. There are other surgical options. Talk to your doctor.
CPAP: Last but not least, there are the CPAP options. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It’s a machine that blows air into your nose through a nose or full face mask. This ensures that your brain and lungs are getting the correct measure of oxygen, and this means clearer and more regular breathing. CPAP masks don’t have to be a permanent aid to your snoring problem. Lose weight and give yourself a chance. You may be surprised.
There are special pillows that are designed to accommodate these CPAP masks, and you can check some of these out on.
Buy yourself a Therapeutic Pillow that can help relieve sleep apnea.
Therapeutic Pillow's range of contour pillows are designed to encourage you to sleep in the side position which is doubly beneficial to clearer breathing.
Good luck and see your doctor!2006-06-02