Do you often experience drowsiness throughout the day, but get more than enough sleep at night? You may have sleep apnea disorder. Sleep apnea disorder affects over 18 million Americans, making it just as big of a problem as type 2 diabetes. In this article we will discuss just what sleep apnea is, treatment options for sleep apnea, and the top 5 most common sleep apnea symptoms that affect Americans today.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that affects your breathing rate during sleep. When affected by sleep apnea, your body will take pauses in breathing. During these pauses, carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream. In order to equalize the amount carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, the body will take breaths and wake the body up. There are three different forms of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is characterized with difficulty breathing due to a lack of respiratory effort. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is characterized by the airway being blocked. Complex or mixed sleep apnea is a mixture of these two problems.
Self-diagnosing sleep apnea can be tricky business. There are a few symptoms you can be on the lookout for if you suspect that you or someone you know has sleep apnea. If one or more of these symptoms are present, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to know for sure. Excessive daytime sleepiness, known as hypersomnia, is a common symptom. If you find yourself drowsy throughout the day, it could be a sign that sleep apnea is waking you up at night. Loud snoring is another common sign, usually indicating that you have OSA. Waking up abruptly short of breath is a common sign of CSA. Morning headaches and general attention problems throughout the day can be a common sign. And conversely, difficulty falling asleep can be a big sign. Different conditions put you at risk for developing sleep apnea. Being male, overweight, or over the age of 40 puts you in the demographic most likely for developing sleep apnea. People with larger neck diameters tend to be in the group for those at risk, as are those with large tonsils and large tongues.
What to do
If you experience any of these symptoms, the next step is to see a doctor. A doctor can diagnose your symptoms with much more expertise, and can lead you to treatment. There are a variety of different ways of treating sleep apnea, all of which should be discussed with your physician. The biggest treatment most people will undergo is a simple lifestyle change. Alcohol and sleep medication is the first to go, as these often make it hard to keep your airway open during sleep. Weightless is a common problem solver, as obesity can be a trigger for sleep apnea. Also, quitting smoking is not only a drastically healthy lifestyle choice, but it also will help fight sleep apnea as well.
After lifestyle changes, many doctors will turn to traditional treatment to combat sleep apnea. Custom-fitted mouthpieces are often used to keep the airway open during sleep, allowing the body to get a good airflow. Breathing devices are also a common treatment option. Breathing devices fit over your mouth and nose, and gently pump air into your lungs keeping a consistent breathing rate. In drastic circumstances, surgery will be an option on the table. This usually means widening the breathing passages, or resetting the lower jaw to allow for improved airflow. Sometimes it means tonsil removal as well. While this may seem like a scary route, it’s often the best route to curing your apnea, which will finally allow for an easy and good night’s sleep.