Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow breathing during sleep.
In this blog post, we will discuss what causes sleep apnea, what the symptoms are, and how it can be treated.
We will also share tips on what you can do to prevent it from happening so that you can get a better night's rest!
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
Each pause typically lasts ten seconds or more and may occur 30 times or more per hour.
These episodes are sometimes associated with snoring and a choking or snorting sound.
The pauses in breathing prevent enough oxygen from getting to the brain, which can lead to what is known as sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome.
Sleep apnea can be a chronic and debilitating disorder.
It can also be a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, increased stress levels, mood disorders such as depression, and what is known as Metabolic Syndrome.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The symptoms of sleep apnea are quite varied, and what you experience may depend on how severe your condition is.
Some common signs that someone might be suffering from sleep apnea include snoring loudly or uncontrollably while sleeping (even when the mouth isn't open), gasping for air during sleep, having a dry mouth upon waking up in the morning, waking up with a headache or sore throat, and feeling fatigued during the day.
A combination of these symptoms is what's generally considered to be the most common sign of sleep apnea.
The severity of sleep apnea can also be determined by what time of the night you're experiencing it.
If you experience sleep apnea during your REM cycles, it is what's known as REM behavior disorder and you may experience symptoms like sleepwalking, talking in your sleep, or acting out what you're dreaming about.
If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, it's important to speak with a doctor about what might be causing them.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is caused by muscles in your airways constricting while you sleep.
This makes it difficult to breathe for extended periods of time without interruption.
Most people who have this condition are overweight but it can also be caused by enlarged tonsils, tumor in the neck or throat area, chronic sinusitis, and even allergies.
Some causes may be genetic, so if you have a family history of sleep apnea, it's especially important to speak with your doctor about what might be causing it.
If you have sleep apnea, it's important to speak with your doctor about what might be causing the condition and what treatments are available.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
This device forces air into your lungs to create an open passage for breathing.
If you have mild sleep apnea, a less restrictive alternative to CPAP is an oral device called a Mandibular advancement device (MAD) which holds the lower jaw forward and opens up the airway.
Some people might need surgery to remove what's causing sleep apnea. If this is your case, you'll be asked to wear a CPAP device for the rest of your life.
Losing weight or changing what you eat can also help reduce the severity of sleep apnea.
Also, if you have allergies, it's important to see what can be done about them.
If your sleep apnea is caused by enlarged tonsils or a tumor, surgery might be necessary.
How To Prevent Sleep Apnea
In order to prevent this condition from happening in your sleep, it's important to make sure you're getting enough sleep.
If your work environment is too noisy or busy, try wearing earplugs when you go into the office in order to reduce distractions and interruptions.
For those who snore at night, sleeping on a side can help diminish the sound because it reduces what's called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS).
And lastly, if you are at high risk for sleep apnea or have already been diagnosed with it, make sure to get enough exercise during the day and try not to overeat.
Tips on How To Get A Better Night's Rest
As we mentioned before, what causes sleep apnea is when muscles in your airways constrict while you sleep.
This can make it difficult to breathe, which is what leads to the interrupted breathing (or shallow breaths) that characterize this condition.
If you're constantly experiencing these symptoms at night, there are a few things you can do in order to get better rest and potentially help prevent sleep apnea from happening:
- Stop eating and drinking two hours before bedtime.
- Take a warm bath to help relax your muscles
- Make sure the sleep environment is easy on the eyes – use light colors that are calming instead of what might be considered “stimulating” (like red or black)
- Stick with what's comfortable for you: if it's pajamas for you, then that's what to wear at night!
- Make sure the sleep environment is cool but not too cold – if it feels chilly when you first get in bed, put on a robe or layer up with an extra blanket.
Sleep apnea is a serious chronic condition that can cause dangerous side effects, such as high blood pressure and stroke.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it’s important to get help from a medical professional for treatment.
Although there is no cure for sleep apnea, there are treatments available that will significantly reduce your risk factors and make sure you don't have another episode while sleeping.
We hope this article has helped provide some insight into what causes sleep apnea so we can all be better prepared to prevent it in our own lives!