Sleep apnea is a serious condition, and you might have it without even being aware of it. If someone has told you that you snore while you sleep, you’ve probably started wondering whether you have sleep apnea. Don’t start worrying just yet – some people are just snorers. The muscles in their throats relax while they sleep, they block the airways, and snoring just happens.
Those who snore silently and occasionally probably do not have sleep apnea. However, those who snore loudly, and sometimes even wake up in the middle of the night because of it, might have a severe sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea.
There’s also a second type of sleep apnea – central sleep apnea. In this case, the brain simply fails to signal the muscles to breathe.
Are you at risk?
Unfortunate as it may be, sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children. These are the risk factors for this condition:
- Being middle-aged
- Being overweight
- Being male
- Having a large tongue
- Having large tonsils
- Having a large neck
- Nasal obstructions
- Having a family history of SA
If sleep apnea is left untreated, and unfortunately most people don’t treat it, numerous health problems can occur. Here are some of them:
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
Sleep apnea can also affect your everyday life. Poor performance in school or at work can simply be a result of untreated SA. So, if you’re waking up with a headache and your partner is always nudging you because of your snoring, do your research and treat this condition.
How to treat SA?
Using CPAP machines for sleep apnea is the most common way of treating this condition. Most people completely eliminate SA from their lives by putting on a CPAP mask (CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure) before going to sleep. This small machine supplies a constant and steady pressure while you’re sleeping and enables you to breathe properly.
If you opt for this type of treatment (and you probably should because it’s the least painful choice), try on several types of masks. Sleeping with the mask will probably be annoying until you get used to it, so pick the one that you can hardly feel your face.
Those who simply cannot tolerate CPAP machines can try EPAP (expiratory positive air pressure). These small devices are placed over your nostrils, and they allow air to move into your nose freely. They’re not effective as CPAP devices, but at least they’ll allow your significant other to sleep, since they prevent snoring.
Unfortunately, when everything else fails, the only way to treat sleep apnea is with surgery. Since surgery should be your last option, try all other ways of treating this condition before you decide to go under the knife.
The primary goal of this procedure is to enlarge the airway. Here are some surgical ways to do that:
Tissue removal – Your surgeon will remove tonsils, adenoids, and some tissue from your mouth and throat in order to enlarge the airway.
Jaw repositioning – In this case, a surgeon will move your jaw forward in order to make more space behind the tongue.
Weight loss surgery – As previously mentioned, those who are overweight are prime candidates for sleep apnea. Losing weight by eating less, running or working out is much healthier than getting this procedure, but those who cannot do that can get this procedure done and get rid of SA.
Tracheotomy – Creating a completely new passageway for air is possible, and if all other options fail, you will still have this one. This procedure might seem scary or gross, but sometimes it is necessary. During this procedure, a surgeon will make an opening in your neck and insert a tube through which you’ll be able to breathe.
Before you decide to do anything, consult your doctor. Find out whether there are any other options for treating your condition and, by all means, work out if you can. Treating sleep apnea is much easier if your body is in good shape.
About the Author
Samantha has a B.Sc. in Nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. She collects running shoes and is always training for the next 10k - she has so far run 4. You can find her on Twitter, and read more of her work at Ripped.me