Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes you to stop and start breathing multiple times during the night while you are asleep. When you have OSA, the muscles in your throat collapse, restricting your airway and stopping you from breathing. Let’s look at what options are available if you want to know how to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
What Are The Symptoms Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Many people have OSA but don’t know it, because they are asleep. In many cases, the person’s bed partner is the first to notice the problem because it may affect their quality of sleep.
However, there is some commonality in symptoms to be found in patients who have obstructive sleep apnea
- Excessive daytime fatigue as a result of not getting good, quality sleep at night
- Snoring, which is often loud and may disturb others
- Gasping or choking that wakes you up
- A sore throat and/or dry mouth in the morning
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Evidence of teeth grinding or jaw clenching (worn-down teeth or problems with the jaw joint)
- Sore jaw muscles
- Morning headache
- High blood pressure
- A low libido
- Mood disturbances
The list of symptoms is quite long and potentially could overlap other conditions. So when should you consult your doctor?
Even though not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea, if you are snoring loudly and
- You are waking up gasping for breath or choking
- You or your bed partner notices pauses in your breathing
- Your daytime fatigue interferes with your daily life, in the sense that you may fall asleep at work or behind the wheel of your car.
Why Treatment Is So Important?
Sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times in one night. The condition has been associated with hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, stroke and enlargement of the tissue around the heart.
When your body is deprived of oxygen, your heart rate drops and your involuntary responses come into play, in an attempt to wake you up. When this happens, your heart rate accelerates rapidly and your blood pressure increases. The more apneic episodes you have, the more the cell walls around your heart thicken. This causes the heart to harden and become less flexible. This makes the heart much less efficient at pumping blood.
Because of the memory and concentration issues that result from OSA, patients are at increased risk for job incidents, motor vehicle accidents and job impairment.
How To Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Conservative treatment is sometimes effective enough for some patients to manage their apneic episodes, without other interventions.
There are actually quite a lot of lifestyle changes that can be made by many patients as they try to treat their condition.
The goal should be to address sleep deprivation and to do everything you can to get a good night’s sleep.
Patients who are overweight, particularly those who have a lot of fat around their necks, may benefit from weight loss. Not to over-simplify this, because sometimes weight loss can be more difficult for patients with obstructive sleep apnea because of the metabolic changes that take place, changing your diet and becoming more active could make a difference to the frequency of your apneic episodes. If you have tried to lose weight in the past and have been unsuccessful, please seek professional input and discuss a weight loss program with your doctor.
Change Your Sleeping Position
Sleeping flat on your back is not a good position for patients with OSA, purely because of the force of gravity that causes the airways to close up. Sleeping on your side may reduce the number of apneic episodes you have in a night.
Review Your Medications
Sleeping tablets, sedatives and some chronic medications may make OSA worse by causing the airways to collapse. Discuss your medication with your GP and find out if there are any substitutes that can be made.
Cut Back On Caffeine And Alcohol
Alcohol may have a sedative effect, especially when consumed in the hours leading up to bedtime, which can result in the collapse of airways. It is believed that caffeine can also interfere with the circadian rhythm, so not drinking coffee in the afternoons could improve the quality of your sleep.
Don’t Go To Bed With A Blocked Nose
Whether you have got a cold or an allergy-related sinus problem, having a blocked nose makes it more difficult to breathe. Consider using a nasal spray or humidifier and keep your home and sleeping area as clean and allergen-free as possible. If your nose is blocked regularly, it is worth having a check-up with your doctor to resolve it.
Consider Your Environment
We all need a comfortable, dark and quiet place to sleep at night. Invest in some black-out curtains and make sure your sleeping area is calm and quiet at night. If you need to, revise your bedtime regime to include a warm bath, meditation or some yoga at the end of the day. This can help with stress management and improve your quality of sleep.
Consider A Mouthguard
Wearing a mouthguard is an effective way to interrupt the collapse of airways. A mouthguard keeps the jaws open by creating a physical barrier between them. They can stop the tongue from blocking the throat and also push the lower jaw forward. Wearing a mouthguard can also protect your teeth from wear and tear as you grind your teeth through the night.
If this does not work, a CPAP machine can be used to force air into your airways while you sleep.
To find out more about how to treat obstructive sleep apnea, please contact us for a confidential appointment