Oh joy, what a wonderful thing to have. It robs you of restful sleep and annoys your partner to no end. Constant snoring and stopping breathing during your most important time of rest. Leaving you wanting more sleep and oh so tired. During my sleep study at the hospital, I stopped breathing over 30 times for up to 36 seconds at a time within a 3 hour period.
“On average, humans spend about 25%-35% of their lives sleeping. Sleep allows both the body and brain to rest and recover from the stress of daily life. As such, trouble sleeping can cause a range of health problems, and if left untreated dire consequences.”
We as individuals require different amounts of sleep. Some require as little as 5 hours. In addition, too much sleep can cause problems. Someone that only requires 5 hours and sleeps in on the weekend can be left feeling groggy and less rested. For migraine sufferers, both under and over sleeping could be a trigger.
Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.
Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep.
As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.
Poor sleep quantity and/or quality can cause excessive daytime drowsiness (falling asleep while reading, or even driving), chronic fatigue, headaches, mood issues, irritability, poor memory, and cognitive dysfunction. It can take an hour to reach deep sleep and if that is interrupted, sleep quality can be poor.
Sleep apnea is literally when a person stops breathing during sleep. As a result, the brain undergoes repeated moments of suffocating. In popular culture, snoring is viewed as funny, and people often laugh when a snoring person lets out a sudden explosive snort. The reality is this loud snort is often the person gasping for air as the brain is not getting enough oxygen.
Untreated sleep apnea can:
- Increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, dementia and diabetes
- Increase the risk of, or worsen, heart failure
- Make arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs), or irregular heartbeats, more likely
- Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery, and breathing devices can successfully treat sleep apnea in many people.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) – (SEE-pap)
Although CPAP is the most common and reliable method of treating sleep apnea, some people find it cumbersome or uncomfortable. Some people give up on CPAP, but with some practice, most people learn to adjust the tension of the straps to obtain a comfortable and secure fit.
- Other airway pressure devices.
Units that supply bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) are also available. These provide more pressure when you inhale and less when you exhale.
- Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP).
These small, single-use devices are placed over each nostril before you go to sleep.
- Oral appliances.
Another option is wearing an oral appliance designed to keep your throat open.
Surgery is usually only an option after other treatments have failed
- Tissue removal.
During this procedure, which is called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, your doctor removes tissue from the rear of your mouth and top of your throat. Your tonsils and adenoids usually are removed as well.
- Jaw repositioning. In this procedure, your jaw is moved forward from the remainder of your face bones. This enlarges the space behind the tongue and soft palate, making obstruction less likely.
- Implants. Plastic rods are surgically implanted into the soft palate after you’ve received local anesthetic.
- Creating a new air passageway (tracheostomy). You may need this form of surgery if other treatments have failed and you have severe, life-threatening sleep apnea. In this procedure, your surgeon makes an opening in your neck and inserts a metal or plastic tube through which you breathe.
- Treatment for associated medical problems. Possible causes of central sleep apnea include heart or neuromuscular disorders, and treating those conditions may help. For example, optimizing therapy for heart failure may eliminate central sleep apnea.
- Supplemental oxygen. Using supplemental oxygen while you sleep may help if you have central sleep apnea. Various forms of oxygen are available as well as different devices to deliver oxygen to your lungs.
- Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV). This more recently approved airflow device learns your normal breathing pattern and stores the information in a built-in computer. After you fall asleep, the machine uses pressure to normalize your breathing pattern and prevent pauses in your breathing.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This method, also used in obstructive sleep apnea, involves wearing a pressurized mask over your nose while you sleep.
- Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP). Unlike CPAP, which supplies steady, constant pressure to your upper airway as you breathe in and out, BiPAP builds to a higher pressure when you inhale and decreases to a lower pressure when you exhale.
Lifestyle and home remedies
- Lose excess weight. Even a slight loss in excess weight may help relieve constriction of your throat.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can help ease the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea even without weight loss.
- Avoid alcohol and certain medications such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills. These relax the muscles in the back of your throat, interfering with breathing.
- Sleep on your side or abdomen rather than on your back. Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat and block your airway.
- Keep your nasal passages open at night. Use a saline nasal spray to help keep your nasal passages open.
- Stop smoking, if you’re a smoker. Smoking worsens obstructive sleep apnea.