Snoring is something that most of us don’t worry about. But loud snoring, accompanied by daytime fatigue, could be not just a case of simple snoring but rather one of the sleep apnea symptoms. Sleep apnea is a common and potentially health problem where breathing repeatedly stops and starts when you are sleeping.
Research says around 80% Obstructive Sleep apnea goes undiagnosed and around 9% women and 24% man are affected by this. Untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous and impact your health. It is important to see a doctor if you think that you might have it. Read this article to know more about the Sleep Apnea Symptoms, warning signs, how to distinguish it from normal snoring, the medical treatments available, and what you can do to help yourself in case you have Sleep Apnea Symptoms.
At times airflow stops while you are sleeping, the oxygen level in your blood drops. Your brain responds by disturbing your sleep to kick start the breathing process. This often resumes with a gasp or a choking sound. If you have obstructive sleep, you probably won’t remember these awakenings. Most of the time, you will stir just to tighten your throat muscles and open your windpipe. This is called as sleep apnea. In some cases of sleep apnea, you may be conscious of your awakenings.
Sleep apnea affects the way you breathe while sleeping. If remains untreated, breathing is briefly interrupted or becomes very shallow during sleep. These breathing pauses typically last around 10 – 20 seconds and can occur up to 100s of times a night. It jolts you out of your natural sleep. As a result, you spend more time in light sleep and less in deep sleep.
The chronic sleep deprivation that comes with sleep apnea results in daytime sleepiness, poor concentration and slow reflexes. Sleep apnea can also lead to serious health problems over time, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and weight gain. But treatment can help you to control the Sleep Apnea Symptoms, get your sleep back on track and start enjoying being refreshed and alert.
Following are different types of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea can result in developing various health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
If not treated at the right time, sleep apnea may impact performance in day-to-day activities, such as at work and school, driving, and academic achievement in adult, children and adolescents.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms may continue for years unnoticed as they are most prominent during night time when you are asleep, it is difficult for yourself to identify whether you have sleep apnea or not. But in case you often feel sleepiness or lack of energy during the day, you can ask room partner to observe your sleep habits, or by recording yourself during sleep. Major Sleep Apnea Symptoms and signs.
Other warning signs and Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep Apnea in children: Obstructive sleep apnea is common in children, it’s not easy to recognize. In addition to continuous loud snoring, excessive perspiration at night, children with sleep apnea may adopt strange sleeping positions and suffer from bedwetting, or night terrors. If you suspect your child having Sleep Apnea Symptoms, consult a pediatrician specialized in sleep disorders.
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. So how do you tell the difference between normal snoring and a more serious case of sleep apnea?
The important sign is how you feel during the day. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea does, so you’re less likely to suffer from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
The following strategies can help you decipher the Sleep Apnea Symptoms:
- Keep a sleep diary – Record how many hours you’re spending in bed, any nighttime awakenings, and whether you feel refreshed in the morning. Ask your sleep partner to keep track of your snoring, including how loud and frequent it is, any gasping, choking, or other unusual sounds.
- Record your sleep – Taking a video or audio recording while you sleep can be very informative and revealing. You can use a sound-activated audio recorder, a video camera, or software that turns your computer into a recorder.
- Keep in mind that even if you don’t have sleep apnea, but snoring problem can get in the way of your partner’s rest and affect your own sleep quality and health. There are many tips and treatments that can help you stop snoring.
Anyone can have sleep apnea, young, old, male, female, and even children. However, certain risk factors have been associated with obstructive and central sleep apnea. You have a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea if you are (or have):
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- A smoker
- High blood pressure, Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
- Having a large neck size (>17 inches for men and >16 inches for women)
- Deviated septum, receding chin or adenoids
- Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
- Your airway may be blocked or narrowed during sleep simply because your throat muscles tend to relax more than normal.
- Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
- Central sleep apnea is often associated with serious illness, such as heart disease, stroke, neurological disease, or spinal or brainstem injury.
Sleep apnea is a treatable condition. There are many things you can do on your own, for mild to moderate sleep apnea. Home remedies and lifestyle modifications can help in reducing sleep apnea symptoms. However, they are not the replacement for medical evaluation and treatment.
The main problem that needs to be resolved is related to how the muscles relax during sleep. All the muscles from our body get less tone as we fall asleep. The muscles from our throat – which are supposed to keep the throat open – will have similar behavior with the rest of the body: they will relax, tightening or closing your airways. If you can increase the muscle tone from your throat, your airways will remain open during sleep and you’ll breathe without any effort.
- Lose weight. People who are overweight have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep. Even a small amount of weight loss can open up your throat and improve sleep apnea symptoms.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is believed to contribute to sleep apnea by increasing inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway.
- Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives, especially before bedtime, because they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing.
- Exercise regularly.Exercise program can have major effect on the duration and quality of your sleep. Aerobic and resistance training can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms, while yoga is also good for strengthening the muscles in your airways and improving breathing.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed.
- Maintain regular sleep hours. Sticking to a steady sleep schedule will help you relax and sleep better. Apnea episodes decrease when you get plenty of sleep.
- Sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your back, as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway. Some people only experience sleep apnea when sleeping on their back.
- The tennis ball trick. In order to keep yourself from rolling onto your back while you sleep, sew a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of your pajama top. Or wedge a pillow stuffed with tennis balls behind your back.
- Prop your head up. Elevate the head of your bed by four to six inches, or elevate your body from the waist up by using a foam wedge. You can also use a special cervical pillow.
- Open your nasal passages. Try to keep your nasal passages open at night using a nasal dilator, saline spray, breathing strips
- Tighten the muscles that keep the mouth closed. Try chewing gum or holding a pen or a pencil between your teeth for about 10 minutes before bedtime, or until your jaw starts to ache.
- Singing can increase muscle control in the throat and soft palate, reducing snoring and sleep apnea caused by lax muscles.
Exercises, for each body area:
Tongue exercises: If the tongue becomes weak it can drop into the throat, causing an airway blockage. Tongue exercises assist in building the tongue’s tone and strength.
Jaw exercises: A tense jaw can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. If the jaw is tight it can place pressure directly on the breathing passages. Jaw exercises will help to loosen and relax the jaw muscles.
Soft palate exercises: The soft palate muscles located around the base of the tongue relax during sleep. A weak soft palate can flap around and its tip can fall down onto the tongue. The soft palate exercises lift the soft palate up. The exercises also tone and strength the soft palate.
Throat exercises to reduce sleep apnea : Throat and tongue exercises may reduce the severity of sleep apnea by strengthening the muscles in the airway, making them less likely to collapse. It may take several weeks before you start to notice the benefits.
Try these exercises
- Press your tongue flat against the floor of your mouth and brush top and sides with a toothbrush. Repeat brushing movement five times, three times a day.
- Press the length of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and hold for three minutes a day.
- Place a finger into one side of your mouth. Hold the finger against your cheek while pulling the cheek muscle in at same time. Repeat 10 times, rest, and then alternate sides. Repeat this sequence three times.
- Purse your lips as if to kiss. Hold your lips tightly together and move them up and to the right, then up and to the left 10 times. Repeat this sequence three times.
- Place your lips on a balloon. Take a deep breath through your nose then blow out through your mouth to inflate the balloon as much as possible. Repeat this five times without removing balloon from your mouth.
- Gargle with water for five minutes, twice a day.
- Lightly hold your tongue between your teeth. Swallow five times. Repeat this five times a day.
If your sleep apnea is moderate to severe, or you’ve tried self-help strategies and lifestyle changes without success, it’s important to follow up with a sleep doctor who can evaluate your Sleep Apnea Symptoms and help you find an effective treatment. Treatment for sleep apnea has come a long way in recent times, so take some time to explore the new options. Even if you were unhappy with sleep apnea treatment in the past, chances are you can find something that works and feels comfortable to you.
Treatments for central and complex sleep apnea usually include:
- Treating the underlying medical condition causing the apnea, such as a heart or neuro muscular disorder
- Using supplemental oxygen while you sleep
- Using breathing devices that will also manage obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Medications are only available to treat the sleepiness associated with sleep apnea, not the apnea itself, so they should only be used in conjunction with other proven sleep apnea treatments.
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