Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder that affects a staggering 100 million people worldwide. However, 80% of moderate to severe Sleep Apnea cases go undiagnosed and that puts them at a high risk of several health issues.
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So, what is sleep apnea, its symptoms, and effects on health? This blog talks about these points and we will also suggest some simple remedies that can help people with sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Apnea is a Greek word, meaning “without breath”. Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep condition in which a person’s breathing is frequently interrupted while he/she is asleep. So, what happens is that when a person is sleeping, air flow to the lungs stops suddenly for about 10 seconds or so. The brain then sends a trigger that wakes up the person. This trigger is just a small one, that is enough to remind one to breathe but not disturb his/her sleep.
For people who have chronic sleep apnea, the brain awakens them up to 30 times every night. Which means that there is a strain on the body and one can never reach the deep sleep state. Sleep deprivation and lack of quality sleep can cause various short and long-term medical concerns.
- Waking up with a dry or sore throat
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Loud snoring
- Insomnia (unable to sleep at night)
- Headaches in the morning
- Hypersomnia (excessive sleeping during the day)
- Lack of energy during the day
- Unable to pay attention, restlessness, and forgetfulness
Please note, loud snoring alone is not considered to be a symptom of sleep apnea.
The effect that sleep apnea can have on our health can be very detrimental. A number of diseases and health conditions have been linked to sleep apnea. They are:
- Depression and mental confusion
- Memory loss
- Acid reflux
- Weakened immune system
- Worsen asthma
- High Blood pressure
- Liver diseases
- Heart Problems
- Low blood oxygen levels
- High levels of LDL cholesterol
- High blood sugar
- Desired sexual desire
Therefore, sleep apnea seems to be the harbinger of many diseases. Some of which can be life threatening too.
- Excess weight: Being overweight can lead to fat deposits around your upper airway and obstruct the passage.
- Neck circumference: People who have thicker necks may have narrow airways.
- A narrowed airway- This could be hereditary.
- Gender: Men are more susceptible to sleep apnea than women.
- Age: It is seen that older people are at a higher risk of sleep apnea
- Family history: again you can blame it on your genes and forefathers
- Smoking: Experts say that smokers are at three times higher risk of being affected by sleep apnea. Why? Smoking increases the amount of inflammation and fluid retention. This can obstruct the nasal airways and lead to sleep apnea.
- Nasal congestion: If you have nasal congestion due to any reason, it increases the risk of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a condition which can be treated. Like any other medical condition, if you suspect you have sleep apnea, visit a doctor for correct diagnosis.
From the above-mentioned causes, it is quite obvious that some like hereditary pre-disposition, age and gender are beyond our control. The others can be managed with a little precaution and changes in lifestyle. The changes you can adopt are-
- Maintain a healthy weight: If you are overweight, focus on losing the excess weight. Eat a balanced diet, exercise daily and maintain a healthy routine to help lose weight.
- Yoga: Breathing exercises are the core of yoga. Practicing it every day can help improve oxygen levels in the body.
- Change in sleep position: Changing your sleep position can also help in alleviating the condition. It has been seen that sleeping on the back sometimes worsens sleep apnea. Hence, doctors recommend sleeping on the side or your stomach to improve the condition.
- Using humidifiers: For people with sleep apnea, dry weather can worsen the condition and make their throat even more dry. Having a humidifier keeps the air in the room laden with moisture. This helps to keep the airways open and can decrease dryness and choking.
- Avoid smoking: Well, if smoking is the cause for your sleep apnea, the remedy is simple- Give it up! Avoiding smoking altogether can prevent worsening the condition and over time may also heal it.
Sleep apnea may be common and under-diagnosed but, if you have experienced any of the above mentioned symptoms, it is best to visit a doctor. As they say, a correct and timely diagnosis can help prevent many health problems!