Besides a healthy diet and a regular workout routine, sleep is one of the pillars of good health. And if there is a condition that is preventing you (and perhaps your partner) from getting an ample amount of quality shuteye every night, not only your physical but also your mental well-being can suffer. Grumpy mornings and being sleepy all day will ruin your mood and motivation and it can reflect badly on your personal as well as professional life. Sleep apnea is the most common breathing disorder that disturbs your sleep, but the good news is that there are solutions to this problem. Here are some of them to consider, but first, let’s define what exactly obstructive sleep apnea is.
What is sleep apnea?
As said, sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that involves periods of shallow breathing, pauses in breathing, snoring as well as gasping for air and waking up during the night due to the airway narrowing and perhaps even collapsing. This leads to inadequate amounts of oxygen in your blood. What this results in is not only the disturbance of sleep but also a general lack of energy, difficulty to focus, and in some cases, even a decrease in sex drive. There are two types of sleep apnea, with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) being the more common one and the one discussed in this article. The important thing to know about obstructive sleep apnea is that, as opposed to what many believe, it is not merely a nuisance but a genuine health concern as it can lead to different health complications.
How to deal with it?
1. Lifestyle changes
Obesity is a common cause of sleep apnea, therefore it is of the utmost importance to keep yourself to an exercise routine and manage your weight. Giving up harmful habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption is also advised. Since alcohol slows down your breathing, you should not have any alcohol at least four hours before going to bed so as not to aggravate the condition. Finally, as little as sleeping on your side can help manage the symptoms, so use pillows to prevent yourself from rolling over and you’ll have a better night’s sleep.
2. Mouth devices
There are custom mouth devices that are supposed to help you breathe while you sleep. Since these can be more or less effective, you should evaluate your situation with your doctor and dentist before diving in. They are usually prescribed in the case of mild or moderate OSA. However, you have to make sure that you only use an FDA-approved model as otherwise, you can experience side effects or even the worsening of your condition.
3. Positive airway pressure
If you have your diagnosis confirmed, you might be eligible to be treated with positive airway pressure therapy. This involves a device that is connected to a mask via the tube that provides the patient with airflow with a certain level of pressure. This is a common treatment for sleep apnea, with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) being the most widely used one, but there are variants such as APAP (auto-titrating positive airway pressure), BPAP/BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) etc. as well. Some people find it difficult to get used to wearing the mask, however, a properly fitted one used habitually could be an effective solution.
Sleep apnea is often linked to anatomical causes. Depending on your doctor’s advice and on the severity of your condition, surgery may be the answer. Depending on where the problem lies, procedures like rhinoplasty or uvulopalatopharyngoplasty might fix the obstruction in your airway. Sometimes, a rhinoplasty might also act as a follow-up procedure for another sleep apnea correction surgery. In any case, a thorough assessment is necessary both before and after such procedures as there can be more than one obstruction causing the problem.
5. Upper airway stimulation therapy
Upper airway stimulation therapy or UAS is another method of treating OSA, mostly in those patients who are unable to tolerate the CPAP therapy. UAS is a fairly new technique that is also FDA-approved and it involves the so-called Inspire system being implanted in the body which can later be controlled by a remote. The system monitors your breathing and stimulates your muscles when necessary in order to keep air passages open.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be anything between a nuisance and a serious health concern. If you think you might have it, consult with your doctor because, as you can see, it’s treatable and your quality of life will improve immensely.