Most of the people do not take sleep apnea seriously, or at least not at the degree they should. This is a more dangerous condition than most would like to think and can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Sleep apnea is defined by repeated breathing pauses during the sleep and the side effects are pretty diverse. Usually, when suffering from sleep apnea, the patient will snore extremely loud and will get up even more tired than he was when he went to sleep. But there are more symptoms to keep an eye on, when looking to see whether you actually have this condition or not. These are the most common symptoms associated with sleep apnea:
- Extremely loud snoring
- Episodes of short breathing or breathing pauses during the night sleep
- Sudden awakenings during night, while manifesting shortness of breath
- Dry mouth or a sore throat in the morning
- Headaches during the day, with no apparent reason
- Hypersomnia (Excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Increased irritability
- Problems with focus and memory during the day tasks.
If by any means you are experiencing these problems, this could be a strong indicator that something may be rotten. The major problem is that most people ignore the sleep apnea symptoms and consider them as temporary. They fail to see the real dangers they are subjecting themselves to and that they should really take measures until it is too late.
There are three major types of sleep apnea you should know of and they go to show that they are more serious than we think:
This is a more common form of sleep apnea and will usually occur whenever the throat muscles relax. This will lead to a choking feeling and gaps in breathing will soon occur. It is because, when the muscle relaxes, the airway narrows a lot or even closes. You will no longer be able to receive the same amount of air and the obvious repercussion is a severe drop in the blood oxygen level. At that point, as the brain will identify the danger, it will signal you to wake up and regulate the sudden problem. These short awakenings are so brief you do not even remember them for the most part. Even if the patients suffering from this form of sleep apnea believe they have actually had a restful sleep, the reality is the exact opposite. It is a milder form for this breathing disorder, but it can quickly degenerate into more advanced forms later on.
Will usually appear when the brain fails to signal the muscles to react. This will lead to lose the control over the breathing muscles during the nighttime sleep breathing and the snoring will soon follow. Also, it is pretty common to wake up in the middle of the night with shortness of breath and experience difficult times in staying asleep for more than 30 minutes at a time.
This is basically a more advanced for of the affection and will show up in people who are both suffering from the first and the second type in the same time. It is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea and there are a lot of complications to follow from this one.
Now, despite of what some may believe, this is actually quite a serious problem and it is increasingly more dangerous as it can affect both adults and children alike. However, there are some people who are more predisposed to this condition than others. Being a man, rather than a woman means increased risk factors, because men are more susceptible to the affection. Also, being older is another factor that should be taken into consideration. But, overall, there are several others you should keep an eye on, because knowing what causes the sleep apnea may help you understanding the proper way to treat it. Here are the most common causes leading to the appearance and the development of sleep apnea:
- Overweight – Overweight and obese people are 4 times more likely to contract it. This is because fat deposits begin to accumulate in the neck area, as well as around the upper airways, may obstruct the air flow. Not everyone who has sleep apnea is obese, or the other way around. But it is an important factor nonetheless
- Bigger neck circumference – Having a thicker than normal neck will certainly add up to the problem. It is not the same for everyone, because some people with more solid necks do not experience sleep apnea, but, again, it is a potential factor as the correlation exists.
- Genetic inheritance – There are a lot of people with genetically inherited narrower airways. In these cases there is not much they can do to avoid sleep apnea except a surgical intervention.
- Genetic background – As weird as it may seem, sleep apnea can be inherited. So, if anyone in the family has experienced this respiratory disorder, chances are that the offspring will also have it.
- Alcohol and similar substances – We include here various sedatives as well, because these substances will relax the throat muscles and, especially when consuming them right before bed time, respiratory problems are bound to occur.
- Regular smoking – This is due to the fact that smoking causes an inflammation of the upper airways, as well as drying out the area. The good news is that, after you quit smoking, everything should go back to normal. Until then, frequent smokers are 3 times more likely to develop sleep apnea over time.
- The usage of narcotics – Regardless whether for recreational purposes, or for medical treatments, the usage of long-acting narcotic substances will definitely increase the risk of developing sleep apnea. Methadone, in particular, is such a substance whose effect is well known in causing sleep apnea.
- A history with stroke – Having experienced a stroke sometime in the past could be a risk factor in sleep apnea later on.
- Nasal congestion – This is due to anatomical problems most frequently, but it could also appear due to allergies. It is characterized by the inability to breathe naturally through the nose and it is a common cause for developing sleep apnea.
Now comes the interesting part, because this problem is only minor compared to what it may trigger in the future. If sleep apnea would have been just that, it would have been that annoying. But there is a catch. The major issue to be considered here is that sleep apnea is known to cause and trigger a lot of future diseases that could potentially end up killing you. The best way to do it is to treat sleep apnea as soon as it appeared and do not let it take over. The most irritating problem related to sleep apnea is the constant daytime fatigue. When waking up constantly during the night sleep the brain will not get enough rest and will malfunction during the day. Severe daytime drowsiness, increased irritability and constant fatigue are common symptoms for those experiencing sleep apnea on a regular basis. Due to sleep apnea you will find it increasingly difficult to stay focused during the day, minor, usual tasks will take you twice as much time to complete them and you may find yourself falling asleep during the working schedule. This behavior is an occupational hazard, possibly leading to work injuries and so on.
But there are other diseases that can be triggered by sleep apnea. Since the blood oxygen levels will severely drop during the sleep apnea episodes, the blood pressure will increase, leading to hypertension and eventually causing abnormal heartbeats, atrial fibrilation and heart attacks. There is also an increase risk of stroke and sudden death.
Aside from this, those suffering from sleep apnea could develop: Type 2 Diabetes, due to an increased insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar), various complications with medications and surgeries (sedation will predispose the patients to sleep apnea and surgical complications may occur), liver problems and relationship issues. Those suffering from sleep apnea on a regular basis are known to develop relationship problems at one point or another. It is because, while you are getting some sleep, your partner will not.
Once you have decided to treat your sleep apnea, the first thing to do is to assess the stage the affection is in. If sleep apnea is only in the beginning, then the recommendation would be for you to make small changes to your lifestyle. Are you smoking and drinking? Now it is the perfect time to quit. If you are suffering from any type of allergies, find a way to treat them through medication. Also, another important indication is to try and sleep on the side, rather than on the back. This way, the airways will not be pressured as much and you should be able to have a constant flow of air available.
But what measures should be taken when sleep apnea is more severe? There are two potential methods to cure the sleep apnea, or at least to offer relief from most of the symptoms.
This option includes the usage of professional devices to help you clear the airways and provide you with a good time sleep. There are several types of devices designed to keep the throat open, or to push the lower jaw forward, thus, forcing the throat muscles to clear the airways. Currently, the best sleep apnea devices being sold all over the internet are:
- SleepPro – This device is meant to push the lower jaw in an upward position and fight against sleep apnea symptoms. By doing this, the throat muscles will get out of the way and a natural gap will be kept open for you to breathe a lot easier and fight sleep apnea. It is basically a dental support appliance, it is easy to use and extremely comfortable. SleepPro has already been ordered by thousands worldwide and it has been approved as an effective sleep apnea treatment method.
- SnoreMeds – This is another approved and highly reliable device working exactly like the previous one. It is also a dental appliance, with an improved design to cope with any jaw type. SnoreMeds can be regulated according to the jaw size and it has been proven to fight against sleep apnea effective and determined. You should be able to notice significant changes in your sleep apnea disorder after the first usage.
These are the last resort in dealing with sleep apnea and are mostly avoided by most people for as much as possible. It is easier to go for the less invasive methods than spend a ton of cash for a surgery that will come with its fair share of risks and complications. Among the most common surgical interventions we need to mention are:
- Jaw repositioning – It brings the lower jaw forward in order to clear the airways
- Implants – There are some plastic rods that will be inserted in the soft palate
- Tissue removal – The surgeon will remove the tonsils and the adenoids, which will stop the throat structures from vibrating, thus, fighting against sleep apnea.
- Tracheostomy – This is the final resort. After all the other procedures have failed and sleep apnea still threatens your life, this is the last thing available. It involves making an opening in the neck and inserting a plastic or metal tube all the way into the airway duct. It will be visible at all times, so you should cover it during the day.
There are other therapy methods as well, like treating the diseases causing sleep apnea in the first place, supplementary oxygen during sleeping and masks to provide an increased flow of oxygen. Whatever the case may be, the best way to do it is to tackle sleep apnea as soon as it appears. This way you will avoid further sleep apnea complications and you will be safer and healthier.