There are more than 80 different types of sleep disorders. Sleep apnea is one of the top five sleeping disorders. It is a condition that causes one to stop breathing in their sleep.
When left untreated, this condition may lead to many physiological issues in the long run. In America, almost 18 million people and at large, 1 billion out of the 7.2 billion population of the world have this sleep disorder.
Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed in the initial stage of development. But some symptoms will show:
- Breathing problems during sleep
- Morning headaches
- Mood changes
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- High blood pressure
We’ll discuss the symptoms further to see if you should see a doctor.
Identifying the Common Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
It is easy to ignore primary signs of sleep apnea because they are problems such as loud snoring, which is pretty common and rarely dangerous.
However, there is a particular combination of hallmark giveaways of the condition that can confirm whether it is time for you to seek out a sleep specialist for a diagnosis.
Untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous, so see a sleep specialist if you have the following:
Although snoring is common in about 45% of adults, it does more harm than just creating an inconvenience for your spouse trying to sleep beside you.
Everyone snores from time to time. However, snoring every night is an indication of serious health issues. Snoring occurs when air cannot move freely through the throat and nose. It can be a chronic problem.
Loud snoring is a vital sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In addition to the loudness, when a person with sleep apnea snores they will stop breathing for 10 whole seconds at a stretch.
Obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of having a stroke, a heart attack, or other problems.
Gasping or Choking during Sleep
Along with loud snoring, obstructive sleep apnea will also have you wake up suddenly in between several times. The awakenings will be accompanied by choking or gasping.
This only happens when the long stretch of time when you do not breathe causes you to open your mouth in an attempt to breathe through the mouth.
As air does not pass freely, your mouth will dry up. This uncomfortable dry mouth sensation will cause a break in your sleep. Later when your breathing resumes, snorting or wheezing may be observed.
Furthermore, you will have trouble falling asleep.
Pauses in Breathing
When loud snoring becomes punctuated with interruptions or breathing pauses in between, it becomes a very apparent case of obstructive sleep apnea.
Pauses during sleep due to apnea are called apneic events. The apnea is very apparent when there are 20 – 30 such apneic events every hour. Your partner will be able to detect these symptoms when you snore loudly and wake them up.
It is very important that you do not ignore concerns about sleep apnea when you are being raised by a partner. And it is very likely that your partner will become aware of these problems at an initial or developing stage.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
You are going to go through a classic case of restless sleep if the sleep-disordered breathing persists. People who do not get a full night’s sleep suffer from daytime drowsiness.
This causes them to often wake up with a morning headache and exude an irritable personality throughout the day.
Morning headache is a very common symptom for people with sleep apnea, especially those who have obstructive sleep apnea. When snoring occurs along with breathing problems, blood oxygen levels drop due to the interrupted passing of air.
As oxygen levels fall below normal levels, you will be at risk of contracting a health problem called hypoxia that causes heart failure and brain dysfunction if allowed to persist.
Additionally, frequent sleep disturbances that are caused due to incompletion of cyclic sleeping stages during the night are also a reason for bad morning headaches.
Difficulty Concentrating or Remembering
If you have such daytime sleepiness, you are likely to have more accidents and mishaps. You are likely to miss important details and have a foggy mind that has trouble concentrating.
How to Diagnose Sleep Apnea?
Once you have received some initial complaints from a persistent partner, you can seek out a sleep specialist for a proper diagnosis of sleep apnea.
Medical History and Physical Examination
Sleep apnea often occurs in individuals due to a combined set of factors that include genetic markers, health and lifestyle choices. So, when you go for a consultation, the specialist will ask for a record of your family history of medical conditions.
In addition to this, a physical exam will also be conducted on you. The physical test is called nocturnal polysomnography, which is more likely to be offered to patients who show signs of central sleep apnea.
A sleep study or polysomnography test is a standard test to detect any form of sleep apnea. This test has to be conducted in a sleep lab. The patient will be put under restrictions regarding the intake of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages that might affect the findings.
And the patient will be given a private room for sleeping under supervision. This test requires equipment such as a heart monitor and other devices to measure breathing patterns, brain activity, mental activity as well as movements in the arms and legs.
The blood oxygen levels will also be counted to check whether there is a risk for high blood pressure, which is also a telltale sign of obstructive sleep.
Plus, the test might also include audio or video recording to make a very accurate diagnosis of sleep apnea.
Home Sleep Apnea Test
A home sleep apnea testing kit may also reveal some conclusive evidence of apneic events. This kit includes simplified tests that you can use at home to take a count of your heart rate, airflow, breathing patterns, and blood pressure.
If the results show proven concerns then your sleep specialist will recommend some therapy to you to see if your condition improves. And if there are no signs of improvement, then you will be made subject to further tests.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can seek out several procedures to help you sleep better. Some are treatments that give you permanent relief, while some are for temporary relief.
There are also a whole range of surgeries for more severe cases of sleep apnea.
Medical Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy uses a machine connected to a mask to create good airflow pressure for a suffering patient during sleep.
The CPAP machine creates an air pressure that is significantly higher than the pressure of air in the surroundings. As a result of the air pressure, the upper airway stays open and prevents snoring.
The therapy is recommended for patients who suffer from an intermediate to severe case of obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP is hugely popular and effective, but many people do not want to try it once or twice because the mask gives them an uncomfortable sensation.
So, if you are having trouble with the mask, there are several other types of masks available in the market that you should try out until you find one that best fits you.
Bilevel-positive airway pressure (BiPAP) therapy is a ventilator solution that aids in breathing. The therapy is done with a BiPAP machine that helps your breathing during sleep.
And the difference between CPAP and BiPAP therapy is that CPAP pushes air in and out at the same pressure while BiPAP pushes in the air at a higher pressure than it pulls the air out.
In this way, the BiPAP machine creates a “Positive” ventilation effect on your lungs and keeps your airways open for uninterrupted sleep.
Oftentimes, sleep apnea can also be caused by irregularities in anatomy, particularly when there is a natural obstruction in the jaw and mouth area. In such cases, oral appliances can be of great help.
These devices provide relief against sleep apnea by pushing or pulling your jaw and keeping it away from your tongue. This reduces or prevents snoring as it keeps the tongue from physically obstructing the airway and causing breathing problems.
One oral device you can try is the FDA-approved sleep apnea treatment device called Vivos. Vivos is a special oral therapy that gives you a non-surgical solution against sleep apnea.
It is a tiny device that you wear inside your mouth, and it repositions your mandibular muscles and slowly readjusts your jaw and mouth by making your respiratory muscles relax all throughout the night.
This device exerts some pressure on your soft palate, helping to keep your throat relaxed. Thus, it gives you tremendous relief against all respiratory issues that cause sleep apnea at night.
Vivos is a much better alternative than other oral devices as it repositions your jaw only after properly calibrating the extent at which your obstructive sleep apnea occurs at night.
The device helps to improve your breathing from the first therapy. In fact, many patients have reportedly stopped having sleep apnea after consistently using Vivos for just 18 months.
If you want something that is cheaper than CPAP therapy or BiPAP therapy but with proven results showing effectiveness, then the Vivos device is a great option for you.
If topical or temporary treatment has not proved to be effective, there is an alternative route to recovery treatment with surgical procedures. There are several surgeries that can permanently relieve you from the problems of sleep apnea.
The success of sleep apnea surgery is at 16 – 83%, as per the statistics of a study conducted in 2021 by the Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences (BJBMS).
There are a few options for the surgical treatment of Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form of sleep apnea diagnosed. The following surgeries are detected for some cases of Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) −
- Tissue Shrinkage
- Removal of Enlarged Nostrils
- Nerve Stimulation
- Jaw Repositioning
Central sleep apnea (CSA), which is not as commonly occurring as OSA is treated with one form of surgery, the transvenous phrenic nerve stimulation.
Unlike OSA, central sleep apnea does not occur due to an anatomical problem. Rather, central sleep apnea occurs when the brain is not sending enough signals to muscles that control breathing during sleep.
The treatment of CSA with transvenous phrenic nerve stimulation works by creating contractions in the diaphragm. These contractions stimulate the phrenic nerve and bridge the gap between neural signals, thus fixing the problem.
Natural Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Sleep disorders can be treated naturally by making some drastic changes in lifestyle. These treatments can even permanently fix your sleep disorder, so it is recommended that you try them out.
Sleep apnea often occurs when a person is sleeping face upwards.
So, positional therapy encourages a change in sleeping posture with the use of devices such as large full-sized pillows, lumbar or abdominal binders and so on to promote the habit of side sleeping.
Weight loss can cause a significant improvement in the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea. This works by reducing fatty deposits that collect in the tongue and neck when a person gains excess weight.
It keeps the airway open and frees up any restrictions in the airflow.
Full Body Exercise
Full body movement and exercise reduce built-up fat in the abdominal region. This improves the natural flow of air in the body, thus making air circulation better.
Additionally, heart condition improves when there is less fat in the body. Studies show that there is a strong correlation between a 10% drop in BMI and a 30% cessation of Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI), which is a measure of the severity of sleep apnea.
A gain in body weight is a prime indicator of sleep-related disorders. Avoid eating bananas or fatty food right before you go to sleep. Keeping a lot of unsaturated fats like whole grains, fish and plants in your diet will help you breathe better and improve your sleeping quality.
Breathing exercises can strengthen your airways and keep them relaxed. This prevents nasal congestion. With improved nasal breathing, there is increased airflow through the nose and, thus more stability in breathing during sleep.
Seek out medical help before your sleep apnea gets worse. Mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea can be treated very easily, so make sure that you do not ignore common indications of sleep apnea.
With amazing devices like the Vivos device, sleep apnea treatment is now more convenient and effective than ever. You do not need any surgery or even CPAP treatment to recover from this condition before it gets more severe.
However, the best way to get healthy sleep without any obstruction is to make good lifestyle choices. Opt for the natural treatment and remedy before you seek out clinical treatments.
With a good practice of healthy habits, you can make a gradual recovery from disorders that cause poor sleep.