General Sleep Apnea FAQs
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes respiratory pauses during sleep. These breathing interruptions can last from a few seconds to over a minute, and can cause frequent waking throughout the night. Sleep apnea can range from mild to severe, with some sufferers experiencing as many as 30 occurrences in a single hour. As a result, people with sleep apnea often fail to get adequate rest and feel excessively sleepy during the day. If you or a loved one has sleep apnea, learning more about this condition and treatment for it is helpful.
Is sleep apnea and snoring the same thing?
No. Although sleep apnea sufferers usually snore, sleep apnea and snoring aren’t the same thing. Sleep apnea occurs when the airway collapses and/or is fully blocked by soft tissue, whereas snoring is caused by soft tissue vibrations caused by partial blockage.
Are there different types of sleep apnea?
Yes, there are three types of sleep apnea — central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn’t properly signal the body to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by airway blockage and is the most common form of sleep apnea. Lastly, complex sleep apnea syndrome is a combination of the other two types.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
There are a variety of sleep apnea symptoms that you or your partner may notice, including:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Headaches upon waking
- Difficulty focusing
- Irritability and mood swings
- Dryness of mouth and/or throat
Not every person with sleep apnea suffers from all the above symptoms. By taking the free, online sleep assessment, you can get a better idea of your sleep disorder risk and how it may be affecting your health.
Who is at risk for sleep apnea?
There are a variety of risk factors for sleep apnea. Being overweight can increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea because of fat deposits around the throat, which cause a smaller airway. Smoking is another risk factor for sleep apnea due to the inflammation of the tissues. Smokers have a three times higher risk than nonsmokers for sleep apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic. Alcohol consumption can also raise your risk of sleep apnea, because alcohol relaxes the throat muscles. Even for individuals without sleep apnea, alcohol can be disruptive to sleep quality because it often causes middle-of-the-night waking.
The above risk factors can all be controlled with healthy lifestyle choices. If you are overweight, healthy eating and regular exercise can make a positive difference. Moderating your alcohol intake and avoiding alcohol within three hours of bedtime can also be helpful. And if you smoke, kick the habit for good if you have symptoms of sleep apnea.
There are also certain risk factors for sleep apnea that can’t be controlled. For example, males tend to develop this condition more than females do. Genetics are another factor that can contribute to the development of sleep apnea. However, by making healthy choices and taking preventative measures, you can lower your overall risk.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Although sleep apnea can be stressful and disruptive, the good news is that it can be treated. In many cases, sleep apnea is treated with a CPAP machine. This machine works via a mask worn over the mouth and/or nose. It gently increases airflow pressure to prevent airway collapse while someone sleeps. There are different kinds of CPAP masks, so you’re sure to find one that fits comfortably, if diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Are there any alternatives to using a CPAP machine?
A sleep specialist may recommend lifestyle changes as a complement to CPAP therapy. As mentioned previously, losing weight and refraining from smoking can help. Positional therapy, which involves changing your sleeping position, can also be effective. Some sleep apnea sufferers find relief by elevating the head of their bed by approximately four inches. In extreme cases, surgery may be a recommended option.
Sleep apnea can have serious effects on your health, but with proper treatment, it’s possible to successfully manage this condition and achieve good quality sleep.
Find out more information about sleep apnea and what you can do to treat it.
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