Sleep apnea is one of the many sleep disorders that can seriously affect a person’s quality of life during the day. The potential consequences of untreated apnea go beyond mere gloom or drowsiness. Brain damage, coronary heart disease, and, ultimately, death are all linked to variants of this disorder.
What causes sleep apnea?
There are three types of sleep apnea. There are obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed apnea. Each of these types of apnea has different causes and unique symptoms.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this disease. The soft tissues that make up the airways in the human body react to gravity during sleep and block the airways. Many people experience this type of apnea occasionally throughout life when they have respiratory infections. However, the chronic form of this condition requires treatment. Low levels of oxygen in the blood that causes apnea can cause hypoxemia. The resulting insomnia is also more dangerous than many believe, leading to traffic accidents and other inconveniences.
The effects of central apnea can be much more severe than those of obstructive sleep apnea. While the latter is caused by physical phenomena that can be changed or treated directly, central apnea is caused by a disruption of brain function. For unknown reasons, the centers in the brain that cause the body to maintain a breathing cycle do not work properly in some people. Those chronically affected by this form of apnea are at risk of seizures and even heart attack.
Mixed apnea is a combination of obstructive and central apnea. Doctors believe that it can occur when untreated obstructive sleep apnea causes changes in the neurological functions that control sleep in humans.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
There are several symptoms that patients with apnea may experience. Nocturnal symptoms include:
- Heavy snoring.
- Suffocation during sleep.
- Frequent waking at night.
- Going to the toilet several times to urinate.
- Symptoms of waking up include irritability, shortness of breath, morning headaches, and drowsiness, even after spending more than enough time in bed.
Best treatments for sleep apnea
Treatments for sleep apnea include lifestyle changes, physical interventions, oral devices, surgery, prescription drugs, and ventilators. One type of treatment may not work independently, so a combination of sleep apnea treatments is needed to manage the disorder.
- Home remedies/behavior changes
This includes things you can do on your own to help alleviate the effects of sleep apnea on your body. This form of treatment can also be used in cases where the disorder is not severe, ie the disorder is mild or moderate. Home remedies / behavioral changes that can be used include lifestyle changes, including weight loss and smoking cessation
- Oral device
Sleep apnea treatments may involve using an oral device that prevents the patient from sleeping on their back. It also includes wearing an oral device that will keep your airways open while you sleep. An example of one of these oral devices for treating sleep apnea is a mandibular advance splint (MAS). Similar to a mouthpiece worn in sports, this device holds the lower jaw down and forward to keep the tongue further away from the back of the airway.
This treatment option is considered the last option to treat the condition when all other options have failed. The main purpose of surgery is to remove excess tissue from the patient’s neck or noises that may vibrate and cause the patient to snore. The operation will also remove tissue that can block the upper airways, causing the condition.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP
The most widely used of the current treatments for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP. This treatment for sleep apnea requires the patient to wear a mask over the nose, either over the mouth or while sleeping. A fan pumps a controlled flow of air into the mask. The extra pressure keeps your muscles relaxed open as if the air were inflating a balloon. The doctor will prescribe the pressure altitude using a night test.
None of these treatment options are ideal, but all of these can be helpful in treating sleep apnea and leading to a more restful sleep. With risks like heart attack and stroke, you should do your best to control your sleep apnea. If you think you have sleep apnea, see your doctor or go to a sleep center. It might be the best decision you’ve ever made.