What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing is repeatedly interrupted (stops and starts back up) during sleep. Around 1.5 million Britons are affected by sleep apnea, including 4% of males and 2% of females. There are three main types of sleep apnea, these being as follows:
- Central Sleep Apnea
- Complex Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea can be a serious condition and therefore it’s important to speak with your doctor if you think you might have it. Effective treatment such as lifestyle choices or procedures can help to reduce symptoms and prevent complications arising from the disorder.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SLEEP APNEA?
- Interrupted sleeping
- Periods in your sleep where breathing stops (noticed by your partner etc.)
- Having a headache in the morning
- Snoring loudly
- Having a dry mouth when waking up
When suffering from any type of sleep issues, these should be discussed with your doctor, as they could lead to serious health conditions when left untreated.
Sleep is an integral part of our health that helps to regulate various different functions and promote overall health and wellbeing. Tackling any issues that you have with your sleep can improve your quality of life.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF SLEEP APNEA?
The causes of sleep apnea depend on having one of the three types below:
Central Sleep Apnea – This occurs when the brain does not send sufficient signals to control breathing whilst asleep. This can result in sufferers having difficulty staying asleep and waking up short of breath.
There are various factors that could increase your risk of developing central sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is more common amongst men and those who are older (middle-aged and above). Those who have had a stroke or suffered from a heart condition can also be more at-risk of developing central sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – This is caused by the throat muscles relaxing during sleep. This is one of the most common types of sleep apnea. When these throat muscles relax, your airway can narrow, meaning sufferers are not getting enough oxygen into their system. The brain notices this struggle and wakes you up to open this airway. The period of waking is often very brief meaning sufferers do not usually remember waking up.
There are many factors that can increase the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea forming; including obesity, smoking, age and gender (men being more likely to have sleep apnea than women).
Complex Sleep Apnea – Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea.
WAYS TO TREAT SLEEP APNEA
The treatment for sleep apnea will depend upon the type you have and the severity of it. For the milder cases of this disorder, you may only be recommended to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or losing weight.
For those with moderate-severe sleep apnea, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) may be used. This involves using a machine when you sleep, providing air pressure that keeps the airway passages open. This can help to prevent sleep apnea and also the snoring that can come along with it.
Surgery can also be used but is usually as a last resort when other treatments fail. Surgery for sleep apnea can include removal of tissue in the throat, repositioning of the jaw and when extremely severe having a tracheostomy (making a new airway).
OTHER WAYS TO REDUCE RESTLESS SLEEPS
There are a whole host of different ways to improve your quality of sleep, one of the most beneficial ways is carrying out regular exercise. Exercise has been known to help you achieve a better quality of sleep, with research suggesting it can reduce the how long it takes to fall asleep whilst increasing how long you sleep for.
Weighted blankets can also help to improve your sleep since the added weight can help the brain to relax and reduce restlessness in bed. Studies have shown that weighted blankets can help to improve sleeping for those who struggle to settle down and also want to achieve deep REM faster.