What is Sleep Apnea?
This is a sleep disorder that happens when as your throat muscles relax during sleep the airways become obstructed and you find it hard to breathe. When this happens your body wakes you up so that the muscles in your throat can start to work again, the airways are cleared and you are able to breathe once again.
This problem is usually caused by
- Low muscle tone - especially with the onset of old age your throat muscles can be weakened and so that they cannot keep your airways open when the throat relaxes.
- Obesity - being overweight can mean that fat stored in your neck is so heavy that the muscles in your throat cannot handle it effectively. When this happens your airways get blocked.
- Physical Abnormality - if you have enlarged tonsils these might cause your airways to become blocked therefore making it hard for you to breathe. It could also be that your airways are naturally smaller than other peoples'. This increases your chances to develop sleep apnea.
How do I know if I have Sleep Apnea?
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- Loud snoring (irregular)
- Headaches (in the morning)
- Daytime sleepiness
Loud snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea and it is to be distinguished from regular slow steady snoring. This type of snoring is often accompanied by gasping, moaning and choking caused by the struggle for air that follows the apnea (restriction of the airways) episode.
Morning headaches can be an effect of sleep apnea. This is because of the lack of oxygen to the brain caused by the obstructed airways. Morning headaches can also be caused by sleeping too much(oversleeping) so be careful not to confuse the two.
Daytime sleepiness can happen when you just don't get a chance to sleep deeply enough. If you suffer from apnea you can be woken up many times a night and this will make it impossible for you to experience deep sleep. As a result, you will suffer from sleep deprivation with all its side effects.
How do you treat sleep apnea?
Reduce your weight
If your apnea is caused by being overweight as you reduce your weight so are the fatty deposits in your throat reduced. Most of all avoid eating large meals just before going to sleep. Since you'll have no chance of using up the energy, it will be stored in fat, therefore, worsening the problem.
Avoid Alcohol , sleeping pills and smoking
Alcohol and sleeping pills cause your throat muscles to relax even more than normal. This can worsen the problem even further. Smoking causes your airways to narrow even more. On top of this smoking is a stimulant and will make it harder for you to fall asleep so at least do not smoke just before going to bed.
Change your sleeping position
Some people find that they only get sleep apnea if they lie on their back. So try changing position and lie on your side. You could also use pillows against your back so that you don't roll over during the night. Alternatively, you could lift your bed so that the gravitational force against your neck is reduced.
See your doctor
Your doctor will be able to correctly diagnose your condition. They can also suggest surgery or help you get a machine called CPAP which helps your airways stay open by pumping air into your mouth.