Estimates are that nearly 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Furthermore, 80% have moderate to severe forms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). And, a vast majority of the 22 million don’t know they have it.
Above all, OSA is an extreme form of snoring. Most noteworthy, snoring is the breathing sound heard while asleep. Furthermore, this sound is caused by vibration of the throat tissue while breathing. Moreover, the vibration results from a partially blocked airway in the mouth, nose, or throat. So while everyone with sleep apnea snores, only some who snore have OSA.
Sleep apnea is a condition when the airway passage, in the area of the throat, becomes repeatedly blocked during sleep. As a result, airflow during breathing is either reduced or completely blocked.
First of all, the most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). And, the least common type of sleep apnea is Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). Moreover, CSA occurs because the brain does not send proper signals to muscles that control breathing. Most noteworthy, OSA is more manageable than CSA.
The most common symptoms of OSA or CSA are described below. Most of all a person with OSA or CSA has the first three symptoms below. However, the person may or may not have some of the others.
Most noteworthy, the best way to know if you have OSA or CSA is to ask your partner. So ask your partner if you snore heavily. And, in particular, ask if your partner heard pauses when you weren’t breathing followed by sudden gasping sounds as you started breathing again.
Or, using your cell phone, you can record yourself during the night. The recording can get you the answers that a partner would have given.
Also, new studies say that wearables like Apple Watch, Fitbit and others are able to detect OSA or CSA. For example, the Apple Watch detects OSA or CSA with a 90 percent accuracy.
Most of all, you are more likely to develop or have OSA if one or more of the items below, applies to you.
Once you think you have sleep apnea, you need to see your health care provider. They will ask you to take a formal sleep study. The results of this study will be your apneas and/or hypopneas per hour of sleep (AHI). The table below shows the relationship between AHI and severity of sleep apnea.
5 to 15
15 to 30
Most of all, undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea lead to serious complications. These include high blood pressure, atrial fibrillations, chronic heart failure, stroke, other cardiovascular problems, glaucoma, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression, cognitive, and behavioral disorders.Furthermore, sleep apnea is a factor in many traffic accidents and accidents with heavy machinery.
First of all, quit smoking. In fact, cigarette smoking worsens swelling in the upper airway passages. As a result, it makes snoring and OSA worse.
Also, avoid alcohol. Most of all, alcohol has a calming effect and relaxes all the muscles in the body, including those in the mouth and the back of the throat.
Consequently, this partially blocks the air passage in the throat. As a result, the person who snores has to breathe harder to force air through these partially blocked airways. And, this causes the soft palate tissue and the uvula to vibrate resulting in the sound of snoring.
Therefore, to stop this, definitely abstain from drinking alcohol before going to bed. And, if you don’t want to do that, then eat as you drink. Or else lower the alcohol content of your drink.
Another method is to lose weight, especially if you are overweight. Especially relevant, losing weight likely cures the mild and moderate kind of OSA.
Because some people won’t be able to fall asleep during the night, they must avoid caffeinated drinks for at least 4 – 6 hours before bed time.
Soft palate exercises make you pronounce an oral vowel. Furthermore, say these vowel sounds for three minutes every day. Most of all, the words to use are cool, kill, coal, coil, kale, keel and automobile. Palate exercises are good for mild and possibly the moderate forms of OSA.
This exercise includes saying open vowels while inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Moreover, all these words have a long vowel sound such as finish, like, bee, tree, fly, and shout. Furthermore, do this exercise for 3 minutes at any time of the day. Most of all, the sound of these words emerges from an open mouth, with no contact made between the tongue, palate and/or teeth. Especially relevant, studies suggest this exercise may help mild and moderate forms of OSA.
Tongue exercises work like wonder for those with moderate OSA. Also, this therapy is about breathing, swallowing and chewing for maximum of 30 minutes a day. Moreover, studies suggest that tongue task training for one week brought about a 48% reduction in moderate form of OSA.
The treatments described here are ordered from the least invasive to the most invasive. Moreover, the “Quit Smoking”, “Avoid Alcohol", and "Avoid Caffeinated Drinks" treatments have been described in the previous sections.
Above all, during sleep your muscles are relaxed. So when you lie on your back, the relaxed muscle tissues, including the tongue, fall backwards and block the throat. Consequently, they will vibrate more and the snoring will be louder.
On the other hand, when sleeping on the sides, the blockage of the throat lessens. As a result, it becomes easier to breathe.
Yet another method is to exercise. Moreover, regular exercise can help ease symptoms of OSA. Furthermore, research suggest a healthy diet and exercise are better options for producing a positive change in lifestyle. Also, other studies show that exercise has the same effect on reducing the severity of OSA as the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) method described later.
Use a dental appliance that repositions the lower jaw and tongue. Moreover, such appliances prevent the airway from collapsing. Also, they hold the tongue in position and slide the jaw forward making it easier to breathe when you are sleeping.
Another remedy is to use the nasal Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP) device. Most noteworthy, this is a disposable valve that covers the nostrils.
Moreover, the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that the EPAP device reduced snoring after 12 months of treatment. Furthermore, if the EPAP device had a positive impact after 3 months of use, its long term success rate was excellent.
Yet another device is the tongue retaining device. Most noteworthy, when you are sleeping, this device holds the tongue forward in your mouth. As a result, the tongue is stopped from falling back against the pharyngeal wall and blocking your airway. Moreover, these devices are good for anyone with large tonsils, large tongues, hypothyroidism, and in this case OSA.
Above all, the treatment of choice for OSA is the Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP is a mask that fits over the nose and/or the mouth. Furthermore, it gently blows air into the airway and helps keep in open during sleep. However, many people dislike wearing a mask all night long. But there are several kinds of masks. So, try each one until you find one that is most comfortable and agreeable to you.
Finally, surgery is the last resort. Surgery trims excess tissue in the throat that collapses and blocks airways when you are sleeping. Moreover, it’s not the right choice for everyone and one may need to be admitted to a hospital for several days.