Many people aren’t aware that there are two types of sleep apnea. The most common kind is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It is also the most dangerous as this type of sleep apnea causes breathing to unknowingly stop and start during sleep. This happens because your throat muscles are so relaxed, they do not function properly and go into a sleep-like state, making it impossible to get air into your upper airways. The problem with Obstructive Sleep apnea is that it happens multiple times a night and each experience can be a varying degree, but unless you sleep with a partner or house guest, you most likely won’t notice any symptoms.
The most common sign of Obstructive Sleep apnea is snoring. Other side effects include constant exhaustion and poor sleep function. As your body adjusts to the disturbance by forcing more air into the lungs, your body typically jerks itself into proper function and breaks your sleeping pattern causing a lack of proper rest. This lack of rest may affect other areas of your life including your eating habits and ability to function throughout the day. Symptoms can also include morning headaches, or early morning sore throats that go away throughout the day.
Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea of any kind is more common among men and in generations who are older, overweight and overworked. Some abnormal medical conditions can cause sleep apnea such as thick necks, small airways or oversized tonsils. There is nothing normal about Sleep Apnea, especially Obstructive Sleep Apnea as it is incredibly dangerous and can create instances of choking. Most people who are at risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea also have some form of smoking habits, diabetes, high blood pressure or stroke risks.
The only way to know whether or not you have any form of Sleep Apnea is to visit your family doctor first. He will ask about your sleeping habits and may even ask family members for information. Most likely he will refer you to an ENT who will do a complete medical check out to look for any possible medical causes. Your next step will be to complete a sleep study. A sleep study is a simple monitoring system that watches how you sleep. It monitors airflow, oxygen levels and other necessary factors that determine how severe your sleep apnea is.
Once the test is completed, then the healing can begin. Treatments can be as simple as changing your sleeping position i.e. if you notice you only get sleep apnea on your back, train your body to sleep on its side. Weight loss is a big part of curing sleep apnea and most of those who lose weight can come off sleep apnea treatments, giving no major medical conditions. Even losing 10% of your weight can create positive impacts on not just your sleeping habits, but energy levels overall. Some doctors may suggest coming off sleeping pills as they can create an obstruction by forcing your airways into irregular functioning patterns or collapsing completely while you sleep. If you drink, they may also suggest stepping away from alcohol for the same reasons as the sleeping pills.
Treatments for OSA
The most common treatment is a CPAP or BBAP machine designed to be a wearable mask that fits over your mouth, nose or both while you sleep. The B or CPAP forces air into your lungs, making sure your airways are breathing properly through the night. Don’t worry though, it’s only enough air to make sure your airways don’t collapse while you sleep. The difference between the BPAP and CPAP is that the BPAP offers two different airflows that you can use that vary as you work to breathe both in and out while you sleep.
The most extreme form of treatment is surgery, but only in the case when preset medical conditions is causing the blockage beyond your control and is unnecessary in most cases. Sleep apnea of any kind is incredibly dangerous, especially in severe cases where someone stops breathing for long periods of time. If you suffer from daily fatigue or struggle sleeping through the night, you should consider contacting an ENT to complete a sleep study or other forms of treatment.