Sleep apnea is a disorder that can affect almost anyone, but doctors know very little about the condition. Symptoms include loud snoring, lapses in breath while you sleep, insomnia and fatigue. The condition can affect people of any age, even infants, and can have a significant impact on health and quality of life. To help you determine whether someone you know is suffering from the condition, here are some of the most important things you should know about the causes, symptoms and treatment of sleep apnea.
1. Obese people are at higher risk of sleep apnea
The highest risk factor for sleep apnea is obesity. For every additional unit of BMI, the chance of developing sleep apnea increases by 14%. Simple lifestyle changes are the first line of defence against mild sleep apnea. Maintaining a healthy body weight by eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and alcohol and getting enough exercise will help to improve breathing while asleep. Sleep apnea is also worsened by sleeping on your back, so you are encouraged to sleep on your side if you can.
2. Some groups are more likely to experience sleep apnea
The likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea increases with age, with people over the age of 50 being the most likely to suffer from the condition. This is because of structural changes in the nasal tissue. As we age, fatty deposits can accumulate around the parapharyngeal area (the neck and head) and the soft palate may lengthen. People suffering from rhinitis or allergies are also more at risk of developing sleep apnea. Allergies to pollen, dust and pet hair can cause inflammation and swelling of the linings of the nose and throat, thus narrowing the airways.
3. Most sufferers are unaware that they have sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is often difficult to diagnose, which is why a lot of people don’t know when they have the condition. Patients will often find it easy to drop off to sleep and while they may feel fatigued during the day, they do not make the connection that waking several times a night is because of their sleep apnea. These people are always asleep when the problems associated with the condition such as gasping for breath and excessive snoring arise. The best way to make an accurate diagnosis is for doctors to carry out a sleep study on the patient so that they can get to the bottom of any issues they may have.
4. Snoring is not the only symptom
Many people who suffer from sleep apnea are already aware that they snore. However, snoring is not the only symptom of this condition. Other clues that you might have sleep apnea include feeling sleepy during the day, headaches on waking, and awaking with a very dry mouth or sore throat. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine from CPAP Direct is an effective way to treat moderate or severe sleep apnea. A CPAP machine consists of a mask attached to a pump that propels air into your upper airways at a preset pressure, thus keeping the airways open and assisting users to sleep quietly and soundly.
5. Other issues that may be caused by sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of serious physical and mental health problems, which is why it is such a serious condition. Having sleep apnea increases your risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure, which can all be prevented if you are treated early. Other conditions that may be caused by sleep apnea include diabetes and depression, so diagnosing the condition early on is a must.
Sleep apnea is a common and underdiagnosed sleep disorder that can have a severe impact on the quality of life. While there is currently no cure for sleep apnea, it is possible to treat the condition once you are aware that you have it. If you start to treat your sleep apnea, you will find that it will be a lot easier for you to get a good night’s sleep and your quality of life will be better for a longer period of time.