Sleep apnea was recently mentioned by Joey on the Good Morning Gloucester podcast. Joey shared his personal struggle as he recently tried to adjust to wearing a sleep apnea mask and joked good naturedly about how the mask can interfere with “sexy time.” I thought this a good opportunity to help increase awareness about sleep apnea risk factors, potential negative effects on health, and possible treatments.
The CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask shown here looks a bit like a medieval torture device, yet can have life-saving benefits.
Sleep Apnea – a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Loud snort or choking sound often signifies breathing has begun again. Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. (National Institutes of Health.) More than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. (American Association of Sleep Apnea.)
Types of Sleep Apnea – The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA.) This most often occurs in people who are overweight but can also occur in with enlarged tonsils and deviated septum.
Central sleep apnea is less common. This disorder occurs if the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn’t send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. As a result, you’ll make no effort to breathe for brief periods.
Central sleep apnea is more common in people who have certain medical conditions or use certain medicines. Central sleep apnea can occur alone or with obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring is not typical with central sleep apnea.
Signs of Possible Sleep Apnea –
- Poor quality of sleep
- Daytime sleepiness
- Waking up with a headache
- Waking up with a sore or dry throat.
- Irritability, depression and difficulty with concentration
According to the National Institutes of Health, “sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.”
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea –
- * Overweight (Being overweight can cause sleep apnea also sleep apnea can also lead to obesity and make it harder to lose weight.)
- * Smoking
- * Excessive alcohol,
- Enlarged tonsils,
- Nasal congestion, nasal polyps, deviated septum, and sinusitis,
- Over 65 years of age,
- Gender (males are 2-3 x as likely to have sleep apnea than pre-menopausal women. Post-menopausal woman have a similar risk as men.)
- Down’s Syndrome (due to narrowed nasopharyngeal area, low tone of the muscles of the upper airway and enlarged tongue, adenoids and/or tonsils.)
- Family history of sleep apnea.
* These risk factors can be changed through healthy lifestyle management.
Sleep apnea can cause –
- increased cortisol (stress hormone)
- increased appetite,
- decreased testosterone,
- decreased oxygen in the blood,
- increased risk of work-related or driving accidents.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of –
- high blood pressure,
- heart attack,
- heart failure,
- pulmonary hypertension,
- arrhythmias (irregular heart beats)
- work-related or driving accidents
Treatment of Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is often a chronic condition that requires long-term management which can include –
- Lifestyle changes – reduce weight, exercise, avoid alcohol, cigarettes and sedatives,
- Sleep on your side; use a body pillow,
- Humidifier and nasal spray,
- Breathing devices – CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) facial and nasal masks, and nasal prongs,
- Oxygen, (for those whose oxygenation saturation levels drop while sleeping)
- Surgery (to remove polyps and enlarged tonsils and adenoids.)
There are also some exercises you can do that might help to strengthen the muscles of your throat, tongue, and jaw.
Complementary Therapies for Sleep Apnea – A systematic review and meta-analysis of manual acupuncture in the treatment of sleep apnea demonstrated the potential benefit of acupuncture in the setting of sleep apnea.
Talk to Your Doctor – Ask about risk factors, screening for, and treatment of sleep apnea. Untreated, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be extremely serious and should not be ignored.
Note: If you have been prescribed a CPAP mask for treatment of sleep apnea and are having difficulty wearing it, talk to your doctor. There are a variety of breathing devises to choose from and getting the mask to fit right is important for comfort as well as effectiveness.
Joey, thanks for bringing attention to this important issue. I hope you and others find this blog post helpful.
Wishing everyone a good night’s sleep! ~ Karen
Karen Pischke BSN, RN, CCRN Alumnus, Author, Speaker, Nurse Researcher, Certified Hypnotherapist, Tobacco Treatment Specialist, Usui Reiki Teacher/Komyo Shihan. Owner/Founder of Dreamtime Wellness LLC. Your Bridge to Health. Promoting Optimal Wellness for Mind, Body and Spirit. Karen is a registered nurse with a background in critical care nursing, cardiac rehabilitation and risk factor reduction, wellness and integrative healthcare. Incorporating a collaborative, integrative approach, Karen strives to educate and provide evidence-based services and self-care tools that improve health, happiness and wellbeing. www.DreamtimeWellness.com. Find us on Facebook
Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussion about health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other institution with which the authors are affiliated.
Sources and More Information:
- American Lung Association
- National Institutes of Health
Research Article: The Clinical Effect of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Zheng-tao, et al. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2016, Article ID 8792167, 10 pages http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/8792167