Has anyone ever told you that you have a tendency to snore? Or maybe you don’t…but you have a partner or family member who does? Do you find that you tend to wake up throughout the night? Or maybe you think you get good sleep, but you consistently find yourself with a dry mouth in the morning?
These are all signs that could suggest that you (or…your beloved snoring family member) may have something called “Sleep Apnea.” Well, there are people who cannot sleep without a machine and that is because they suffer from a medical condition called ‘Sleep Apnea’.
Let’s actually break this down. What is Sleep Apnea?
The most common type of Sleep Apnea is ‘Obstructive Sleep Apnea’ (OSA). OSA is a potentially life-altering and life-threatening breathing disorder that occurs during sleep.
The upper airway repeatedly collapses, causing cessation of breathing (apnea) or inadequate breathing (hypopnea) and sleep fragmentation. The breathing stops during sleep for 10seconds to a minute or longer. Oxygen levels in the blood decrease.
One challenge with something like this is that you may not necessarily wake up entirely. So it’s not always easy to self-diagnose. BUT – Sleep fragmentation results in chronic daytime sleepiness (which you would expect if you’re constantly getting interrupted throughout the night).This disrupts healthy sleep and causes a number of short-term and long-lasting effects that threaten the health and well-being of those who suffer from the condition.
How many people have OSA? The prevalence of OSA in the general population is still unclear. Several epidemiological studies have attempted to examine this issue. Epidemiological data from Young, Palta, Dempsey, et. Al (1993) in a study paper titled:- Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: natural history, diagnosis, and emerging treatment options, estimated that in a group of 602 middle-aged individuals 2% of women and 4% of men meet the minimal diagnostic criteria for sleep apnea with excessive daytime sleepiness.
People most likely to have or develop OSA may have any of the following: Obesity, especially in the upper body
Small upper airway due to excess throat tissue or abdominal jaw structure
High Blood Pressure
Family History of OSA
Overweight Obese individuals
Obesity, particularly abdominal and upper body obesity is the most significant risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Excess body fat on the neck and chest constricts the air passageways and sometimes the lungs – thus setting the stage for interrupted breathing during the night. And according to the research…The more obese a person, the greater the risk of apnea.
The good news is that there are some general things that can make a big difference.
Losing some weight, if you are overweight or obese (even as little as 5% of your body weight can make a change)
Avoid alcohol, sedatives, and hypnotics (as they can sedate the very muscles we need to breathe)
Sleeping on your side or in a semi propped position
If you have sleep apnea, do not take sleep medicines or sedatives. These chemicals will increase the relaxation in the tissues of the upper airway and make the obstruction worse. The specific treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is usually a mask worn at night to keep the airway open or using a sleep machine that can help you breathe and sleep properly.
If OSA is left untreated, it can increase the risk of developing:
Decreased quality of life (because who wants to feel sleep deprived?)
Weight loss is frequently recommended to improve OSA among obese patients. Not only does sustained weight loss improve OSA,it also improves many other independently linked co- morbidities such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The greater the change in body weight or waist circumference, the greater is the improvement in OSA