Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes stopped breathing and obstructed breathing during sleep. It causes breathing to stop and start, disrupting the body's oxygen supply, exacerbating medical conditions, or creating new health issues.
The risk for sleep apnea diagnosis is higher in individuals who are obese or carrying excess weight
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Labored breathing while sleeping that stops and starts for up to 1 minute at a time
- Struggling to breathe during sleep
- Loud snoring
- Morning headache
- Waking with a feeling of dry mouth or sore throat
- Foggy mind (unable to focus or think clearly)
- Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Feeling irritable and short-tempered
Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Occurs when the upper airway is blocked by the uvula (soft palate tissue), tonsils, tongue, and throat walls. The airways narrow as the muscles relax during sleep and when you inhale, the obstruction lowers the oxygen level in the blood. You may briefly gasp for air as you sleep, not enough to wake you up fully but enough to cause lethargy from lack of good quality sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea
The less common central sleep apnea is where the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. You will wake up suddenly gasping for air and may have trouble falling back to sleep.
Mixed Sleep Apnea
A combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea causes delayed breathing and insomnia with many waking episodes every night. The chronic lack of sleep increase the risk of other health issues such as heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
The risk for sleep apnea diagnosis is higher in individuals who are obese or carrying excess weight. People who have a thicker neck may have a more narrow airway. A family history of sleep apnea, being male, a smoker, or a heavy drinker are high-risk categories.
Medical conditions that increase the risk of sleep apnea:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Congestive heart failure
- Parkinson's disease
- Hormonal disorders
- Chronic lung diseases
Health Risks of Sleep Apnea
- Chronic daytime fatigue
- Metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol level)
- Surgery complications or complications with medication
- Relationship problems from a sleep deprived partner
- Liver problems
Is Apnea Common?
Around 22 million Americans have sleep apnea. Over 38,000 people die each year from complications caused by sleep apnea, namely cardiovascular disease.
The Best Mattress for Sleep Apnea
The Nolah Evolution mattress, adjustable Nolah Squishy Pillow, and Smart Adjustable Base could provide much comfort while dealing with sleep apnea The 15-inch mattress is packed with support features, cooling technology, support coils, and edge support. The pressure-relieving features keep the spine aligned and the bolstering coils provide stable comfort, especially for heavy-set sleepers.
Meanwhile, the Nolah Squishy Pillow features adjustable shredded foam, allowing people with sleep apnea to adapt the pillow to the perfect height to open their airways and prevent snoring. Lastly, an adjustable base lets you sleep elevated, also preventing airway blockage.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatments
Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and may speak to your partner or other members of your household. You could be monitored overnight in a sleep disorder clinic for a sleep study. A home sleep study could also be an option. Your heart, lung, and brain activity are monitored along with your breathing patterns and blood oxygen levels as you sleep. Your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist to examine and rule out blockages in the throat, a cardiologist to evaluate your heart, or a neurologist to examine your nervous system. This may sound overwhelming but the risk factors of untreated sleep apnea are severe illness that could greatly impact your quality of life.
For many, lifestyle changes can be enough to lessen or reverse a sleep apnea diagnosis. Losing weight, quitting smoking, drinking, and getting more fresh air and exercise could improve mild sleep apnea. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine could be beneficial to those with severe sleep apnea to open the airways as you sleep and prevent snoring. However, many people find the CPAP machine uncomfortable to sleep with. Other oral appliances, oxygen supply, or adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) could be a viable option for you.
Surgical options for sleep apnea:
- Tissue removal from the top of the throat and rear of the mouth
- Tissue shrinkage
- Jaw repositioning
- Nerve stimulation
Untreated sleep apnea could lead to sleep disorder, heart failure, heart attack, high blood pressure, or other serious medical conditions. Those carrying excess weight are at higher risk. Thus, losing weight and making other healthy lifestyle changes could be enough to lessen mild sleep apnea. Consult your doctor if you’re having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep because a chronic lack of restorative sleep damages your overall health and mental wellbeing.