An 8-Part Guide To Treating And Managing Sleep Apnea
Treating And Managing Sleep Apnea
One of the most difficult health conditions for people to deal with is sleep apnea. What is even more challenging is that many are not aware that they have this disorder. Although it only occurs when you are asleep, the effects of this health condition can extend into your everyday life, even when you are awake. This is one reason you need to ensure that you are taking the proper steps to help prevent, treat, and manage sleep apnea and any symptoms that you may have.
The following guide will provide you with information that will help you better understand this disorder. While reading this guide, you will learn the answers to questions, like "is sleep apnea curable?' The definition of sleep apnea will also be explained; you will learn to recognize the first sleep apnea-related signs. The side effects of sleep apnea, treatments, and much more will be tackled. Continue to read this guide so you will be educated on this common but rarely discussed health condition.
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Sleep Apnea Explained
Sleep apnea is a pressing health disorder that causes a person to stop breathing while he or she is sleeping. This can occur once or several times during the night; in fact, some people have experienced this as many as one hundred times in one night. Unfortunately, this action can cause your body to have a depletion in much-needed oxygen.
Sleep apnea is similar to feeling like you're suffocating very slowly without knowing it is occurring to you. Annually, almost 20 million Americans deal with this sleep disorder. However, it is important to be aware that some people are more susceptible to this disorder than others. These risk factors will be discussed later in this guide.
The Different Types Of Sleep Apnea
This health condition is divided into two distinct types. One type is OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), and this is the most prevalent type. This type of sleep apnea is generally caused by something that gets lodged in a person's airway, and the air is not able to get through the entire respiratory tract.
CSA, also known as central sleep apnea, is caused by the brain failing to signal the muscles to do the breathing function instead of blockages. Breathing is a biological process that is considered semi-automatic. This simply means that your body performs this action without you having to think about it consciously, similar to blinking, but you can still control it by holding your breath for a certain amount of time.
When you sleep at night, your brain has total control over your bodily functions. So if your respiratory system is not stable, and you are not breathing correctly, the brain may not be able to automate the breathing process fully. Keep in mind that this does not occur as often as most people would think. The most common reason for sleep apnea is generally airway blockage.
Although you may want to safely assume that you are suffering from sleep apnea due to airway blockage, the only way to know for sure is to see a doctor. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. The doctor will take into consideration any risk factors you may have, perform potential brain scans if CSA is suspected, and monitor sleep studies to come up with a confirmed diagnosis.
Is This A Disability?
If you have been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, it can indeed be debilitating. Over time, the continuous lack of oxygen can cause significant damage to your body. In some cases, a sleep disorder can be a symptom of other health issues that you may not know you have. Just consider that just one episode of not breathing while you are sleeping can last up to 60 seconds!
To get a better understanding of how devastating this can be for your health, take a moment, and exhale completely. Then, pinch your nose using your fingers while keeping your mouth closed; stay that way for one minute. Now, just imagine that it occurs during your sleep several times at night. You can understand further how dangerous sleep apnea can be once you know the signs and symptoms.
The Various Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
Do you have sleep apnea? One of the most effective ways to know for sure if you have a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, is to get a diagnosis from your doctor. You can prepare to discuss your symptoms. The best way to be ready for this conversation is to understand the common signs you should look for. The symptoms of sleep apnea are listed below.
- Constant headaches
- Tiredness and grogginess
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated stress levels and lack of desire to manage the stress
- Heart issues
- Signs of anxiety and depression
- Reduced cognitive function
The Causes Of Sleep Apnea
This section will examine the risk factors as well as the different causes of sleep apnea. Due to the majority of sleep apnea cases being due to OSA, it is imperative to understand the risk factors and the reasons behind it. Neural malfunctioning causes (CSA) is not as established but is likely due to brain damage. With that being said, individuals who are deemed to have a higher risk of developing sleep apnea are listed below.
- Overweight individuals
- Nasal obstructions
- Family history
- GERD or acid reflux
- Individuals 40 years of age or older
- Neck sizes over 16 inches
- Individuals with small tongues, enlarged tonsils, or those with smaller jawbones
Some other types of medical conditions can cause sleep apnea, like congenital disabilities and tumors. But the causes mentioned above are much more common. Unfortunately, the more risk factors that apply to you, the higher your risk of developing sleep apnea, even if you have never given it much thought. The following are the most typical causes that are also related to the above-listed risk factors.
- Dental issues like overbites
- Swollen tonsils (seen more in children)
Ways To Stop Or Prevent Sleep Apnea
Prevention is by far the best cure for sleep apnea. In most cases, our lifestyles, what we eat, and what we do influence the chances of developing this condition. Try to identify some of the choices you make that increase the chances of getting sleep apnea.
This way, you can keep this health condition from happening to you. There are things you can do and have to avoid to stop this condition. Some are listed below.
Lose Excess Weight
Excess weight can exert a lot of pressure on your respiratory system, which can be too much for its muscles to handle. If you can lose some weight, cutting back to a healthy and normal size, you will relieve a significant amount of pressure on your lungs and airways. You will be comfortable when you lie down to rest, thereby eliminating the likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea.
Avoid opting for drastic ways of getting rid of the extra fat. Excessively low-calorie diets or even extreme fasting regimens are not the best ways of losing weight. You should do it healthily through options such as better eating habits, healthy lifestyle changes, exercising more, and not eating processed foods. By losing excess weight, you will not only feel lighter and healthier, but you will also sleep much better than you did before.
You Should Exercise More
It is not unheard of that overweight people battle with sleep apnea. The reason is that they do not often exercise to condition their body. The benefits of working out are listed below.
- Strengthen the muscles to keep them from collapsing, which means that your airway muscles will not collapse and block the passages when you are sleeping
- Strengthen body systems, which means that your respiratory system will open up and function more efficiently
Skinny fat is often the fat deposits found between body organs. You may have a flat tummy and look thin, but you still have some substantial amounts of fat stored inside you, between your body organs. The buildup of the fat increases if you do not exercise regularly, and this can lead to other health complications, such as blocking your airways.
You do not need to engage in vigorous workouts. You can do mild sessions that will have your heart rate elevated for around 30 minutes. You can opt to do some exercise or physical activities that can push this to even more than half an hour, but 30 minutes is a good base target when starting out. Focus on doing the exercises at least four times a week.
Avoid Excess Alcohol And Certain Drugs
Anesthesia and other substances that cause muscles to relax will often have the same effect on all the muscles in your body, including those in your throat. The same results are evident when you take sleeping pills. The relaxed muscles will collapse and block your airways, hampering your breathing as you sleep.
However, it cannot be said that some of these substances are entirely unhealthy. You do not need to cut them out. But use them in moderation and not as part of your daily routine.
You Should Quit Smoking
If you are not too keen on the many reasons for quitting smoking, then your breathing problems should be one of them. Smoking will fill your airways with thick tar. This slowly builds up and blocks your respiratory system, leading to sleep apnea.
But it is also essential to understand that quitting smoking is easier said than done. Nevertheless, it will be worth every grueling effort. You can rely on various resources available that can help you overcome the addiction. Also, consider being part of a support group to help you through the tough moments of the process.
Drink More Water
Lack of water in your body causes your soft tissues to dry up and thus cannot expand fully. The same case happens to your vessels and tissues - they will become thicker or dry. Such issues lead to breathing difficulties that disrupt your sleep.
It is estimated that the number of chronically dehydrated people in America is around 75%. If you think that you are not among them just because you drink water daily, you are wrong. Make sure to take approximately 3.5 liters of water daily to be on the safe side.
Avoid Mucus-Producing Foods
Having excess mucus will block your airways and can lead to chronic congestion. Certain foods are known to increase the production of mucus in your body. If you avoid these foods, you can stop or prevent sleep apnea. Some of these foods are listed below.
- Deep-fried foods
- Dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk, etc.)
- Jams and jellies
- Sugary foods
- Soy and soy products
- Red meat
- Sunflower oil
- Corn and corn byproducts (foods that contain corn starch, corn syrup, or corn)
Do keep in mind that other kinds of food will do the opposite, reducing the production of mucus. So you can do more of these if you are to combine them with the other foods mentioned above. Try to have a meal that has lots of these foods, especially during dinner.
- Citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Hot peppers
- Leafy greens
- Bamboo shoots
- Broccoli and cauliflower
Managing Symptoms With Treatments
If you suffer from sleep apnea, many sleep apnea aids have been designed to help you make it through the night without having major problems. In this article, we will be taking a look at different types of sleep apnea products. These can help you better manage your sleep apnea symptoms.
Sleep Apnea Masks
This type of sleep apnea device can help to prevent blockage of your breathing passage so that your breathing will stay consistent and steady all night long. Usually, it comes with a CPAP machine. We will be discussing CPAP later on in this article.
Sleep Apnea Mouthguard
This is an oral appliance that can be worn all night long like you would wear a mask, but a mouthguard is a lot less intrusive compared to a CPAP machine and mask. You can choose from the list below.
A mandibular advancement device (MAD) comes with metal hinges for pulling your lower jaw forward. It snaps over dental arches. It prevents the collapse of your soft pallet.
Tongue retaining device is not as common as a MAD mouthpiece but does provide you with another option. Basically, your tongue is held in place by the device so that it doesn't fall back, which can result in your airway getting blocked. Either one can be quite helpful, but some people may not want to wear one on a nightly basis.
Sleep Apnea Pillow
This is a specially designed pillow. It helps with maintaining a better sleeping posture during the night. The pillow takes off the weight from your respiratory system and lungs, so it isn't likely that you will experience a blockage that results in your breathing stopping.
Sleep Apnea Chin Strap
It has been shown that adjustable chin straps can help to ease sleep apnea symptoms. They are not as intrusive as mouthpieces are. The way these straps work is they hold your jaw forward so that your soft pallet does not collapse, and your airway does not become blocked.
How Sleep Apnea Can Be Cured
The above sleep apnea supplies are excellent for helping you manage your sleep apnea symptoms. But they don't do anything to cure the condition. Unfortunately, there really isn't an actual sleep apnea "cure."
The absolute best option for you is to prevent it from making changes to your lifestyle. However, depending on how severe your condition is, it might be possible to reduce it by utilizing natural sleep apnea cures. In the most extreme cases, surgery may be recommended by a doctor. We will now go over various options that are available.
Sleep Apnea Home Remedies
What are your sleeping habits? There are a couple of changes you can make to your sleeping habits at home. Listed below are some of the changes you can make to remedy sleep apnea.
Instead of sleeping on your back, sleep on your stomach or side. Your lungs are located closer to your back than they are to your chest. Therefore, whenever you lie on your back, it results in your lungs being crushed between your weight that is on top of them and the bed. Lying on your stomach or side will provide you with more room to naturally expand.
Keep your head elevated. Basically, this is what a sleep apnea pillow does. However, you can also raise the head part of your bed, which will result in your entire body being at a downward slant. That helps with removing some of the weight that rests on top of your lungs by shifting some weight downward.
Utilize a CPAP machine. This "continuous positive airway pressure" machine helps to prevent sleep apnea from occurring by forcing air literally through your airway. That doesn't cure it at all, but it effectively prevents sleep apnea from taking place during the night.
Get your acid reflux treated. If you are suffering from acid reflux, it may interfere with your breathing. If you can address this problem, that can help to either stop or reduce your sleep apnea.
Treat congestion or coughs. Those things may cause sleep apnea episodes as well, so when they are treated, it helps you breathe better during the night. Just don't become overly reliant on nasal decongestants. Try using one of the essential oils discussed below if you end up getting "stuffed up" frequently. Over the long term, they are safer compared to using nasal sprays (which, to be effective, rely on steroids).
Use a humidifier. Your sinuses can get dried out by dry air, and mucus may become thicker as well. It will prevent everything from flowing smoothly and could result in blockage. When a humidifier is used in your room, it helps to rehydrate your airways naturally. When an essential oil, such as one of the ones listed below, is added to your humidifier, it is even more effective.
Furthermore, there are essential oils that can be very soothing. And they can be helpful in treating sleep apnea. If trying essential oils is something you are interested in, try out a blend of the following below.
- Lavender (well known for being able to help with anxiety and sleep)
- Lemon (One study showed that lemon, when mixed with equal parts of peppermint, lavender, and thyme, could reduce snoring by as much as 82%, which is promising for those with sleep apnea.)
- Marjoram (helps you to fall asleep and also relieves tension from your body and relax your muscles)
- Peppermint (an excellent decongestant that clears your respiratory systems from any blockages that may cause sleep apnea)
- Eucalyptus (effective at clearing blockages and reduces inflammation as well that helps to open up your breathing passages even more and works well combined with mint for an effective respiratory opening and cleansing)
Sleep Apnea Surgery
This is used only in severe cases when all other options have failed to work. However, if you have already tried all the other remedies, both medical and natural, and still don't have relief, then surgery can definitely be a real lifesaver. Here is what you may expect if you are getting to the point when you think that you may need to have surgery.
If you have your tonsils still, first try removing them to see if that helps. If you are an adult, you will most likely undergo uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. You don't need to worry about how to pronounce this - it can be referred to as UPPP for short.
Before having any surgery, ask your doctor about having a monitored sleep study performed so that you have a better understanding of your sleep apnea. UPPP surgery, depending on how it is performed, has a 40-80% success rate. You might still have occasional, mild sleep apnea, even after you have surgery. If no healthy changes are made to your lifestyle, then your sleep apnea might progress to dangerous levels, even after surgery.
There are several different kinds of surgery that are available for sleep apnea, and there isn't a single surgeon that is an expert on all of them. Before you undergo surgery, speak with your doctor to determine what his expertise is. Don't ask him to perform any type of surgery that he is unfamiliar with. Get a second opinion, particularly in cases where a doctor appears to be casual or too laid back about surgery.
Surgery should mainly be used as your very last resort. Also, keep in mind that it isn't a cure. In other words, if you don't make any lifestyle changes to prevent sleep apnea, then it will reoccur. And it isn't a practical solution to undergo surgery every time that sleep apnea reappears.
Final Thoughts On Sleep Apnea
There are many different ways sleep apnea may make your life hard. This article has probably helped you be better informed. Different types of sleep apnea solutions also exist for you to try.
Hopefully, this guide will inspire you. Take control of your own health. Give your doctor a call right away if you believe you are suffering from sleep apnea.