What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep affects all elements of one’s daily life and overall health. A good night’s sleep will leave you feeling and looking sharp, and ready to perform at your best. On the other hand, certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can deeply affect your health and well-being. Although sleep apnea affects a large number of people, most aren’t even aware of what they’re dealing with, in spite of the pronounced symptoms.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes victims to stop breathing when they’re asleep. More specifically, breathing stops and resumes after a short period (between several seconds and a minute). The breathing pauses occur when the patient’s muscles relax, which then allows soft tissue to collapse block airways. Because the lungs aren’t getting enough air at this point, the victim’s brain (and other organs) become oxygen deprived, causing them to wake up. This may be repeated several times during sleep or even hundreds of times in more severe cases.

Snoring is the most common symptom of this condition. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Rather, snoring is likely to be a symptom of sleep apnea if it’s accompanied by silent breathing pauses or gasping/choking sounds. Other common signs include:

-Sudden awakenings, which may be accompanied by shortness of breath

-Struggling to stay asleep

-Abnormal sleepiness during the day

-Morning headaches

-Concentration problems

-Memory lapses

Victims of sleep apnea often wake up feeling tired, even when they’ve had a full night’s sleep. Some also find themselves falling asleep unintentionally in the course of the day. This is as a result of waking up too many times, even though one may not consciously recall each awakening.

Dealing with Sleep Apnea

If ignored, sleep apnea could cause excessive daytime fatigue, sleepiness, and severe morning headaches. The condition also creates safety hazards, since it raises one’s risk of drowsy driving and causing accidents at the workplace. In most cases, self-care could be the most appropriate remedy for sleep apnea. If you’re a victim of this condition, there are various ways through which you could manage your symptoms.

Avoid Alcohol and Sedatives

Certain medications, including sedatives and sleeping pills, as well as alcohol before sleep, may aggravate the symptoms of sleep apnea. So if you suffer from this condition, always resist the urge to use a sleep aid. Besides making it harder to wake up when breathing stops, the substances are also known to weaken muscles, causing them to close up faster. As a result, breathing pauses will last much longer than they should.

Lose Weight

Because overweight individuals have extra tissue in the back of their throat, their airways are more likely to get blocked as they sleep. And things can get quite complicated; sleep apnea shares a risky and unhealthy relationship with excess weight. Studies show that poor sleep can cause one to gain more weight, which would effectively make them more vulnerable to the condition.

On the flip side, losing just a small amount of weight can significantly relieve constriction of one’s throat, which would, in turn, improve their symptoms. So if you’re overweight and suffer from sleep apnea, make weight loss a priority. Nutritional counseling, exercise, and other lifestyle changes may help.

Change the Way You Sleep

Experts suggest that side sleep positions could significantly help sleep apnea victims. This is because when one sleeps on their side, their airways are more likely to stay open, which is crucial in minimizing episodes of breathing cessation. Still, one needs to sleep on the right kind of mattress. Because sleeping on your side stresses your hip and shoulders, you need a mattress that will support these pressure points.

So rather than focus on price tags and aesthetics when shopping for mattresses, you should look for a mattress that scores highly when it comes to supporting, comfort and firmness. You might also want to see your doctor and ask for recommendations on appropriate products. Besides helping you pick the right mattress, they could ask to perform a more elaborate diagnosis (and thus recommend suitable remedies for you) as well.

Sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. That said, a few self-help strategies and the right treatment could effectively eliminate the symptoms of this condition. Besides these remedies, you may come across other ways of dealing with sleep apnea. Before you can try any of them, however, it’s important to talk to a doctor to find out how helpful it might be.