A good sleep at night is incredibly important for our health. It is just as important as exercising and eating health. Unfortunately, some people fail to get a good and enough night sleep due to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. What kind of sleep disorder is it? How bad is this sleep disorder? And what can be the solutions to this sleep disorder?
Sleep Apnea in Brief
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that needs taking care of seriously. This sleep disorder happens when someone’s breathing is interruption when they are sleeping. If this disorder is not properly treated, the sufferer can repeatedly stop breathing during their sleep and that is possible to happen up to hundreds of times. The dangerous effect of stopping breathing is the lack of oxygen supply to the body and especially to the brain.
There are two kinds of sleep apnea that you need to watch out. They are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. This type of apnea is more common than the other one. OSA occurs when the airway is blocked and when the soft tissue in the back of your throat collapse when you are sleeping.
- Central sleep apnea. This type of apnea is different from OSA. In this type of sleep disorder, the blockage doesn’t happen in the airway but in the brain. It then results in the brain that fails to send signals to muscles to take a breath. This can happen because of the respiratory control center instability.
The Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is indeed destructive to our body. Bad quality sleep can lead to many health issues such as the body’s inability to regenerate cells. The next question is that what probably the causes of sleep apnea are. There are at least 8 factors for sleep apnea:
- Being more than 40 years old
- Being overweight
- Being male
- GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux
- A sleep apnea history in family
- Having a small jaw bone, a large tongue, or large tonsils
- Having nasal obstruction that is caused by allergies, deviated septum, or sinus problems
- Having neck size that is considered large (16 inches or more for women and 17 inches or more for man)
The Reasons Why You Should Get Treated for Sleep Apnea
If you live with some of sleep apnea factors above, you will more likely to develop this sleep disorders. That also means that you need to get treated for sleep apnea. The reason behind this need is obviously because this sleep disorder can negatively impact your quality of life and of your health.
Fortunately, the treatment and solutions for sleep apnea are not difficult to manage and to get. The first thing you need to do in giving your sleep apnea solutions is having a study on your overnight sleep. This study will identify and diagnose your sleep apnea. You can do the overnight sleep study by using a form of home based sleep study that you can easily find online.
Then what do you need to do after the study then? Yes, you need to find the right solutions for your sleep apnea. If you have no idea about the solutions options for treating your sleep apnea, take a look at a couple of options below:
Lifestyle Changes as Sleep Apnea Solutions
The first option of sleep apnea solutions is by making modifications in your lifestyle. Lifestyle does leave a big impact to your health. By changing your lifestyle into the healthier one, you can reduce your sleep apnea severity and thus improve the effectiveness of other treatments in curing sleep apnea. Some ways you can do to treat sleep apnea by changing lifestyle that can be done are:
- Reducing Your Weight
Having overweight is the most common factor contributing to the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Having excess weight means you have extra weight around your neck. That weight is exacerbated by gravity during your sleep by creating downward pressure on the airway around your neck.
The severity of the OSA can be reduced by losing some of your weight. Actually, losing weight is not only beneficial for treating OSA, it is also important for your overall health. In the case of sleep apnea, there is actually a vicious cycle that happens between weight loss and sleep apnea occurrence.
If you suffer from sleep apnea and you are not well treated, you will find it more difficult to lose your weight. You poor of sleep at night will cause high calorie food cravings as well as lack of energy that makes you hard to do exercise. However, in some other cases, sleep apnea that has been treated can contribute to the weight loss.
- Reducing the Intake of Sleeping Pills, Alcohol, and Other Sedatives
Giving solutions to your sleep apnea through the changing of lifestyle can also be done by limiting the intake of medicines like sleeping pills and or both manufactured and natural sedatives. Also, you need to avoid alcohol as alcohol is actually another type of sedative. Alcohol can make the muscles around your throat to relax that later can exacerbate the severity of your sleep apnea. Before making any change in your medication or quitting the medication, it is advisable for you to consult with your doctor.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking is just another sedative. Cigarette that you smoke can leave a poison that can swell your airway. That’s why; quitting smoking will surely reduce your sleep apnea severity as well as other sleep disorders. Basically, quitting smoking will improve your overall health conditions.
VPAP/CPAP/APAP Machines as Sleep Apnea Solutions
In giving solutions to your sleep apnea, while you are bettering your lifestyle, you can speed up the treatment by using VPAP or CPAP or APAP machines. What are they? CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This machine is also known as APAP or Automatic Positive Airway Pressure or VPAP or Variable Positive Airway Pressure that is also known as BiPAP or BiLevel. All of those machines are similar. The only difference among them is the moderation of the machine’s air flow.
Among all of those machines, APAP and CPAP are the most common machines in treating sleep apnea while the VPAP is the most common machine to treat other diseases in respiratory system. The way APAP and CPAP work is by delivering a gentle air flow to the back of the throat. This flow of the air that is delivered using mask is able to produce positive pressure of air that can form an air splint. Air splint is the agent that stops the airway from collapsing.
Like APAP and CPAP, VPAP machines also play a part in producing air splint. Another role these machines do is providing exhalation additional support. To help you get clearer understanding on the differences among those machines, look at the brief explanation below:
- CPAP is the machine that delivers one level of pressure throughout your night sleep. The pressure is delivered continuously and it will not change until further update by your doctor or sleep technician. When you are using this machine, you will need to stay overnight in a lab to have your pressure levels checked correctly. You usually will need to revisit the lab up to 4 times a year.
- APAP is the machine that adjusts the pressure using an algorithm automatically. When you are using this machine, you will not need to have your night sleep in a lab like when you are using CPAP because the correct pressure is calculated automatically.
- VPAP is another automatic machine that uses an algorithm. Not only will this machine help you exhale, it will also blow out a gentle air stream. The use of this machine should be under the guidance and direction of doctor or sleep physician.
Oral Devices as Sleep Apnea Solutions
Oral devices for one of the options in treating sleep apnea has increased its popularity due to the growing awareness of public that oral devices are a very effective treatment for the sufferers of sleep apnea. Up to now, there have been more than 100 various oral devices that have been approved by FDA and that have been used to treat OSA and snoring.
Using these oral devices is as simple as wearing it in the mouth when you are sleeping, just as how athletes wear an orthodontic device or sports mouth guard. Oral device works in your moth by holding your lower jaw forward to let your airway open. Also, this device prevents the muscles and tongue in the upper airway from blocking and collapsing the airway.
Aside from being approved by FDA, oral devices are also approved by AASM or The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This oral appliance has been verified to be oral appliance therapy or OAT, meaning that this device has been approved to be a first line treatment for the people suffering from OSA in mild to moderate severity.
However, oral devices can still be used for treating the patients of severe OSA, especially the ones who cannot wear or cannot tolerate CPAP devices. There is actually another alternative for people suffering from severe OSA, which is a therapy combination. This therapy combination combines the use of oral device and the use to CPAP. The therapy can help the patients reduce CPAP machine’s pressure and thus make the use of the device more comfortable.
Surgery (for both Adults and Children)
Surgery is also considered to be the effective solution to treat sleep disorder. However, surgery will work best in treating snoring, and sadly less effective in treating OSA.
In conducting a surgery, the main challenge confronting surgeon is deciding which upper airway part is the cause of the airflow obstruction. The conventional sleep testing even fails to determine which area that needs modifying by the surgeon. If a surgeon fails to treat the airway site or if there are a couple of obstruction sites, the sleep apnea will unlikely diminish.
As there are a couple of sites at which the obstruction of the airway may occur, there are several kinds of operations that can be used to cure sleep apnea. UPPP or uvolopalatopharyngoplasty is the most common one as this operation has a success rate of 50%. Some surgeons have got high rate of success by conducting staged and multiple operations.
Surgery as one of the solutions to sleep apnea can be done to both adults and children. Although surgery is said to be less effective in treating sleep apnea, it seems to only happen to adult. Meanwhile, in children’s cases, it will be another story.
In 75% of sleep apnea cases, surgery is able to cure the sleep disorder. The surgery is conducted by removing tissues that evoke enlarged adenoids and tonsils and that cause the occurrence of sleep apnea.
This surgical removal of adenoids and tonsils have been approved and endorsed by The American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy even says this surgical removal as the first choice in giving treatment to children suffering from sleep breathing problems.
The last solution to sleep apnea that you can try is to take positional therapy. Sleep apnea and or snore sometimes occur when someone is sleeping on their back. Those people can reduce or eliminate the blockage of airway by changing their sleeping position from on their back to on their side.
Changing sleeping position is indeed not easy as you cannot control how your body moves during sleeping. However, you have some techniques to help you get the right sleeping position to cure your sleep apnea and snore. One of the techniques is using a tennis ball that is dropped in a sock and that later is pinned to the back side of the top of your pajama.
Some companies even produce a product that can help you reduce supine sleeping. Besides, there is also a therapy to better your sleeping position named positional therapy. Unfortunately,this kind of therapy only works in a mild OSA. For the severe ones, the collapse of the airway can occur no matter what sleeping position a patient has when sleeping.
Sleep apnea is definitely dangerous for your health. Therefore, you need the knowledge above to really understand your sleeping disorder. By knowing so, you are able to more correctly determine the right solution to your sleep apnea.