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Sleep Apnea – what is it and how to prevent it?

February 16, 2022

Sleep Apnea – what is it and how to prevent it?

Did you know that 6 to 17% of the global population does experience sleep apnea? It’s considered the most common sleep-related disorder, it affects men more, and it increases with age. However, it’s far from being solely a physical issue addressing a specific target. It affects any person who suffers from it physically, mentally, and emotionally. Read on to understand more about this condition.

Why does it happen?

It is related to not breathing properly during sleep. The air should always flow smoothly from the nose and mouth into the lungs, including during sleep. When this normal flow is repeatedly stopped throughout the night, apneic episodes take place.

It happens due to the total relaxation of the muscles that support the soft tissues within the throat (tongue, for instance), causing a closure on the airway and cutting off the breathing. As there is a decrease of oxygen supplying the brain, sleep quality is poor and daytime sleepiness is considered a recurrent issue.

Apnea is extremely uncomfortable for those who suffer from it, as well as for those who sleep next to the person since snoring is often associated with the often-called OSA – obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is the most common subtype of this condition but there are others.

Snoring does not mean that one has OSA. It’s one of the indicators but is far from being the only one. Interruptions in breathing while sleeping, choking, snorting, or gasping are often reported alongside loud snoring.

How do you know if you suffer from OSA?

The first evaluation for OSA may be performed at home without a technician in attendance. The doctor will examine your neck and head to identify physical factors associated with sleep apnea, but other tests will probably follow.

Polysomnography, for instance. To take this test, one sleeps overnight in a hospital while connected to a variety of monitoring devices that record physiologic variables, such as eye movement, brain waves, muscle activity, heart rate, or even oxygen levels.

How can you avoid it?

Sleep apnea, when diagnosed, can cause other major health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or even stroke. Thus, a proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent any future potential complications.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the first step. To prevent the obstruction that causes the apneic episodes, weight management is important. Not only does it improve quality of life, but it also decreases daytime sleepiness.

Most people diagnosed with OSA also use a face mask during sleep that delivers airflow to keep the airways open at night. It is considered the first line of treatment and named CPAP – continuous positive airway pressure.

Positional therapy is also suggested as well as a good sleeping bed to guarantee the best possible night. It is recommended to sleep on your side and to invest in a kind of infrastructure that outlines the shape of the body, keeping the spine comfortably aligned.

Take away

Sleep apnea is far from being a soft sleep-related issue that is just inconvenient. It’s not only about avoiding snoring out loud and bothering your partner. It goes way beyond that.

It’s about solving physical problems as well as taking care of your mind. Sleep deprivation due to constant nightly interruptions causes morning headaches, irritability, limited attention span, or even difficulty in thinking clearly. It affects a person physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Luckily, there are several non-medical solutions to help prevent apnea – from Ergomotion®’s adjustable beds to special mattresses or pillows. Search the one that fits you better or look for advice from professionals or directly from your doctor.

Medical References:
Neurological Deficits in Obstructive Sleep Apnea (April 2017) – article available at National Library of Medicine website
There Are 3 Types of Sleep Apnea (September 2021) – article by Katherine Lee published on Everyday Health
How to Sleep on Your Side Without Waking Up with a Sore Back or Neck – article medically reviewed on February 8, 2022, published on Health Line