A lack of sleep affects more than your energy level and ability to function during the day. An inadequate amount of sleep may increase the risk of developing other health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
The most common sleep disorder is sleep apnea, in which your breathing stops and starts during sleep. It affects up to 18 million Americans, including children.
There are two basic kinds of sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea in which your airway becomes obstructed during sleep.
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea, including:
- Being overweight
- Your gender—men are more likely to be at risk than women.
- Older age
- Family history
- A small airway or some physical abnormality in the nose, throat, or other parts of the upper airway.
- Allergies or other conditions that cause congestion.
- Enlarged tonsils, which primarily affects children.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and heart failure, as well as lifestyle choices such as smoking,
Central sleep apnea is most common in individuals with heart disease or neurological disorders.
Central sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the muscles to start breathing. While central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea, they do share some common signs and symptoms.
The Most Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The nine most common signs of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring, which is most commonly seen in obstructive sleep apnea.
- There are times when your bed partner notices that you aren’t breathing.
- Wake up abruptly with shortness of breath, a symptom of central sleep apnea.
- Having a dry or sore throat when you wake up
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Daytime sleepiness, which can lead to work-related mishaps or traffic accidents.
- Problems with attention and concentration
- Getting up to urinate during the night
The body wants to breathe more than anything else, and it does everything it can to avoid closing your airway. Therefore, (people with sleep apnea) aren’t getting into deep stages of sleep where the airway relaxes and closes.
Sleep apnea is rarely fatal on its own. It can, however, increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. The condition is also associated with worsening heart failure and irregular heartbeats. Sleep apnea can also complicate the treatment of chronic diseases.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea
Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) is the gold standard for treating sleep apnea. Masks or other devices that fit over your nose or your nose and mouth are part of the CPAP system. The mask is connected to the machine’s motor by a tube, which blows air into it. When you breathe in, this increases air pressure in your throat, preventing your airway from collapsing.
Try these tips to lessen the severity of sleep apnea:
- Sleeping in a different position so you’re not lying on your back
- If you are overweight, you should lose weight.
- Avoiding alcohol and sleep-inducing medications
- Using nasal sprays or allergy medications to relieve congestion
- Quitting smoking
- You can keep your airways open by using a mouthpiece or dental appliance for mild cases.