Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep disorder characterized by intermittent pauses in breathing during the night. It can silently wreak havoc on one’s health if left unrecognized and untreated.
In this blog, we unveil the warning signals, so you can understand them and take proactive steps toward better sleep and overall well-being. You can also get professional treatment from Home Sleep Center for any sleep-related issues.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These pauses, known as apneas, can be caused by either a partial or complete obstruction of the airway (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) or a failure of the brain to signal the muscles to breathe (Central Sleep Apnea).
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea symptoms include. They can vary in severity and depends on the individual.
- Loud and persistent snoring
- Breathing pauses during sleep, often seen by a bed partner
- Gasping or choking sensations upon waking
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and impaired cognitive function
- Morning headaches
- Irritability and mood changes
- Frequent awakenings during the night
Risk factors of sleep apnea
- Excess weight: Obesity is a significant risk factor as it can lead to the accumulation of fatty tissues around the neck, narrowing the airway.
- Neck circumference: A thicker neck may have a narrower airway, increasing the likelihood of obstruction.
- Age: Sleep apnea is more common in older adults because of metabolic changes.
- Gender: Men are at a higher risk than women, though the risk for women increases if they are overweight, and it also appears to rise with age.
- Family history: A family history of sleep apnea may contribute to an individual’s risk.
- Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop sleep apnea than non-smokers.
- Nasal congestion: If you have difficulty breathing through your nose due to a structural issue or congestion, you may be at a higher risk.
Four Warning Signs for Sleep Apnea
Elevated blood pressure
According to the American College of Cardiology, nearly half of individuals with hypertension also suffer from sleep apnea. Driven by pauses in breathing during sleep, the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, causing spikes in blood pressure.
The release of stress hormones further contributes to increased blood pressure. If someone experiences resistant hypertension, where blood pressure remains high despite using at least two medications, it could be a signal of underlying sleep apnea.
Approximately 30 percent of individuals with sleep apnea report waking up with headaches. The cause of these headaches is not entirely clear, but it may be related to decreased oxygen levels in the blood during breath interruptions.
Additionally, blood vessels in the brain may dilate in an attempt to compensate. These headaches tend to be recurrent, affecting both sides of the head rather than one side, and usually resolve within a few hours after waking.
Encountering restlessness at night, where you awaken feeling as though you’ve endured a physical challenge with sheets tangled and pillows askew, might subtly signal the presence of sleep apnea.
This involuntary shifting and turning could be the body’s instinctive effort to discover a more comfortable position that promotes easier breathing. Those dealing with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) may find themselves naturally transitioning from sleeping on their back to their side, as side sleeping can occasionally aid in keeping the airway more unobstructed.
Moreover, if the day is characterized by enduring fatigue and a dependence on numerous cups of coffee to stay alert, it could be another indication of potential sleep apnea. While occasional tiredness after a single night of inadequate sleep is a common occurrence, continual daytime fatigue raises noteworthy concerns.
Sleep is pivotal in letting the body rejuvenate and ready itself for the upcoming day’s demands. When sleep apnea interferes with this crucial process, it becomes understandable why you might experience persistent exhaustion throughout the day.
Diagnosis for Sleep Apnea
Two common diagnostic tests used to identify and assess sleep apnea are nocturnal polysomnography and home sleep tests.
This comprehensive sleep study is conducted in a sleep center or hospital.It involves monitoring various physiological parameters such as brain activity, eye movement, heart rate, muscle activity, airflow, and blood oxygen levels.
Professionals use the gathered data to diagnose the presence and severity of sleep apnea. Furthermore, it is especially beneficial for complex cases or when additional sleep disorders are suspected.
Home Sleep Tests
These tests are designed to be conducted in the comfort of one’s own home. Home sleep tests are typically less comprehensive than in-lab polysomnography, focusing on essential parameters like airflow, breathing effort, and blood oxygen levels.
Individuals are provided with a portable monitoring device to wear while sleeping, and the collected data is later analyzed by healthcare professionals. It is often recommended for individuals with a high likelihood of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea without other significant sleep disorders.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Effective treatments are available for sleep apnea, and preventive measures can be taken by adopting lifestyle changes, cultivating healthy eating habits, and establishing a consistent sleep routine.
Treatment options include the use of devices such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) machines, oral appliances, and, in some cases, surgical interventions.
Lifestyle modifications play a crucial role in preventing sleep apnea and may involve maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, and establishing a regular sleep pattern.
By incorporating these changes into your daily life, you can not only manage existing sleep apnea but also take proactive steps to reduce the risk. Consulting with healthcare professionals can provide personalized guidance on the most effective treatment and prevention strategies based on your circumstances.
Surgery is considered an option for individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) when other treatments prove ineffective. Surgery is recommended after a three-month trial of alternative treatment methods.
However, for those with specific jaw structure issues it may be a viable initial option. Furthermore, radiofrequency ablation can be used to remove or shrink tissues in the throat, and jaw repositioning enlarges the space behind the tongue to reduce obstruction.
The new method involves nerve stimulation which is placing a stimulator for the hypoglossal nerve to maintain tongue position. In severe cases, tracheostomy, creating a new air passageway through the neck, may be considered as a last resort after other treatments have failed.
In conclusion, while sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep disorder, effective management and treatment options are available. Recognizing the warning signs is key to taking proactive steps to avoid complications associated with sleep apnea. If sleeping issues persist, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is crucial to receive proper diagnosis and tailored treatment.
Furthermore, by staying vigilant and seeking timely intervention from online Sleep Apnea Specialist can significantly improve sleep quality and overall well-being.