Sleep apnea is a widespread condition that interrupts sleep. People suffering from this sleep disorder are likely to have one or several abnormal suspension in breathing or unusually low breaths when they are sleeping. Such pauses in breaths may continue for a few seconds or even last for some minutes. Such pauses may happen as many as 30 times or even more within just an hour. Usually, normal breathing may resume with a loud exhaling or throttling sound.
Typically, sleep apnea is a persistent or chronic disorder that disturbs oneís sleep. This is primarily owing to the fact that when there are abnormal suspensions or breaks in breathing, it results in low or shallow breathing. In such situations, you generally move from deep to light sleep. Consequently, your sleeping pattern becomes poor and you have a feeling of being exhausted all through the day. In effect, people suffering from sleep apnea usually feel very sleepy during the day.
In most cases, sleep apnea is never diagnosed and the patient continues to suffer from poor quality sleep. While there is no blood tests that can help the physicians to diagnose this sleep disorder, they are even unable to identify this health condition when the patients visit their clinic during the regular working hours. In addition, majority of the people who are suffering from sleep apnea are themselves not aware of the problem as it happens only while they are sleeping. Therefore, in most cases, either a family member or one who is sleeping in the same bed or room is the first person to detect the symptoms of this disorder.
It is worth mentioning here that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most widespread type of this sleep disorder. When people suffer from this condition, either their air passages give way or they are blocked when the patient is sleeping. This, in turn, results in low breathing or the abnormal pauses in breathing.
Despite being very common, the bad thing about obstructive sleep apnea is that is has the potential to turn out to be an extremely serious condition wherein the breathing of the patient stops and starts again and again while the patient is asleep. In fact, there are many dissimilar types of sleep apnea and the most widespread among them is the obstructive sleep apnea that happens when the throat muscles of the patients slow down sporadically and block their air passages while they are asleep. Although snoring is the main obvious indication of the fact that you are suffering from sleep apnea, not everyone suffering from this sleep disorder snores. A person is likely to be suffering from sleep apnea when he/ she happens to snore quite noisily and feels exhausted even after sleeping for the entire night. If you are of the view that you are suffering from sleep apnea, it is advisable that your visit your physician right away. Proper and timely treatment of sleep apnea is essential to put off problems related to the heart as well as additional complications.
While it has been found that usually the elderly people are affected by sleep apnea, the fact remains that almost anyone can suffer from this potentially dangerous sleep disorder. In addition to older adults, this health condition is also quite widespread in people who are obese. Generally, obstructive sleep apnea develops when the muscles that prop up the soft tissues within the throat, for instance the tongue and soft palate, slow down for a short term. As these soft muscles loosen up, the air passages are either constricted or completely blocked and the patientís breathing is stopped for a brief period. In order to cure this obstructive sleep apnea, the physicians may resort to employing a CPAP device with a view to keep the patientís air passages open, or the patients may also require undergoing a surgery to get rid of the tissue from their nose, throat or mouth.
Why do people suffering from sleep apnea usually snore? The answer to this question is that when one inhales, the air that forces past the blockage in the airways may result in noisy snoring. While the elderly people are more susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea, almost anyone can suffer from this condition. For instance, little children having distended tonsil tissues inside their throat are also likely to suffer from this sleep disorder.
It is rather difficult to identify when one is suffering from sleep apnea because the symptoms of this condition occur while he or she is sleeping. However, it is worth mentioning here that among the several symptoms of this potentially dangerous sleep disorder, one is persistent noisy snoring which is usually followed by some type of suffocation or panting. The volume of snoring is likely to increase and it may even happen more often as this sleep disorder progresses.
Basically, there are three kinds of sleep apnea and they are briefly discussed below.
Among the three different types of this sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea is the most widespread and it occurs when the inhaled air is unable to reach the lungs without any obstruction as the upper portion of the airways has actually collapsed. This condition is more prevalent in men and people who are aged as well as obese, particularly people who normally sleep lying on their back. However, this condition may occur in anyone and when it happens in people having standard body weight, they usually have some kind of defect in the lower part of their face, for instance, have a large tongue, a small chin or an overbite. Obstructive sleep apnea progresses in three stages and they are as follows:
In the first stage of this sleep disorder, the air passage is partially jammed because the soft tissues behind the throat slow down and begin to shut resulting in a very noisy snoring. Subsequently, the air passage fails and either the flow of air through the airway stops completely or the volume of the air is reduced considerably for a minimum of anything between 10 seconds and a maximum of two minutes. Ultimately, this results in the sufferer/ patient to wake up for a brief period (however, they are seldom aware of the fact that their sleep has been disrupted). In such cases, the sufferer usually grunts or pants for air and when he/ she has inhaled sufficient air, they again fall asleep. This cycle repeats itself throughout the night causing snoring and disruption of sleep.
Central sleep apnea is another type of sleep disorder that happens somewhat rarely. This condition occurs as a result of the failure of the brain to transmit signals to the chest to inhale appropriately while one is sleeping. This condition may be a fall out of certain neurological disease (ailments related to the brain) and acute heart problems. In addition, use of specific medicines, particularly very potent pain killers like morphine as well as other tranquilizers, may also cause central sleep apnea.
The third type of sleep apnea is called mixed sleep apnea. As the name of this condition hints, this is basically a combination of the two types of sleep apnea discussed above - obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea. In all cases, mixed sleep apnea begins as the central sleep apnea and eventually develops into obstructive sleep apnea.
Supplements and herbs
Specific herbal medicines and dietary supplements have been found to be effective in curing sleep apnea. According to Anglo-Saxon mythology, chamomile is regarded as one of the nine blessed herbs and it has been traditionally employed to help in calming the nerves and this practice continues till this day. Findings of several studies have hinted that chamomile promotes tranquility, helps in calming the mood during bedtime, augments the performance of an individual during the day and also assists in sleep patterns.
The Native American people have been using skullcap to facilitate in unwinding as well as for support during menstrual periods. In addition, this herb also supports quality sleep in adults who are suffering from incoherent sleep patterns.
Explorers from Spain were the first to introduce passion flower to the New World and it has a long tradition of being employed in the form of a gentle tranquilizer. Findings of several scientific studies have hinted that consuming this herb in lesser amounts is likely to support quality sleep in adults suffering from unpredictable sleep patterns.
The ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese as well as the Indians were aware of valerian root and its soothing properties since several thousand years. Scientific studies have hinted that besides its calming and soothing properties, use of valerian root has the aptitude to enhance the quality of sleep, particularly in women who have attained their menopause.
It has been found that using the supplement methylsulfonylmethane (also known as MSM) which is basically an organic sulfur, supports rapid recuperation from physical weariness. In addition, this supplement also aids you to awaken without any difficulty as well as overcome sleepiness very rapidly.
Aromatherapy also works well to cure sleep apnea. For instance, you may add some drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil in a sink filled with hot water and breathe in the vapour before retiring to bed for the day. In addition, lavender oil too produces a comforting aroma that may facilitate in falling asleep. The vapour/ steam of these herbal oils also helps to relieve aggravated throat and mouth tissues.
Additional things you may do
As mentioned earlier, it is usually a daunting task to diagnose sleep apnea because all the symptoms of this condition occur when the sufferer is asleep. Nevertheless, this condition can be cured completely. Actually, in addition to using conventional medications, herbal products, dietary supplements and aromatherapy, there are a lot of other things that you can do yourself to facilitate in treating sleep apnea that is mild to moderate. Using home remedies and changing your lifestyle may go a long way in providing ease from sleep apnea.
Many people have discovered that losing the extra pounds have been useful in treating cases of restrained to relentless sleep apnea. While there are many others who have experienced that losing even the slightest weight helped to clear the throat and alleviate the symptoms of this condition.
In addition to undertaking exercises and proper diet to lose weight, you need to do a few other things or make some changes in your lifestyle to help improve the symptoms of sleep apnea. In case you are an avid smoker, it is important that you quit smoking right away. It is understood that smoking aggravates sleep apnea by augmenting the inflammation as well as fluid retention inside the throat and the upper portion of the airway.
People suffering from sleep apnea should also keep away from using sedatives, sleeping pills and alcoholic beverages, particularly prior to retiring for the day at night, as these substances loosen up the muscles in the throat and also obstruct normal breathing. In addition, you may also avoid caffeine or any heavy meals no less than two hours before bed time.
At the same time, it is important to maintain regular sleep hours. You need to follow a strict sleep schedule that will facilitate you in unwinding and sleeping better. It has been seen that the incidences of sleep apnea diminish when the sufferer has sufficient sleep, especially at night. Always try to sleep on any of your sides and avoid sleeping on the back. Sleeping on your back is harmful for people suffering from sleep apnea because when you do so, the gravity may result in the collapse of the tongue and the soft tissues, which, in turn, block your air passage.
Trying the tennis ball technique will also help you to ease the symptoms of sleep apnea. To prevent you from rolling onto your back when you are sleeping, you may sew one tennis ball into any pocket on the backside top of your pyjama. Alternately, you may also fix a pillow packed with tennis balls at the rear of your back. Support your head in an elevated position so that it is placed at least 4 inches to 5 inches above your remaining body from the waist upwards with the help of a foam wedge. In addition, you may also use a specially made cervical pillow.
Clear the passages of your nose and try to keep them open at night-time with the help of a nasal dilator, breathing strips, a saline spray or a neti pot.
In case you are suffering from moderate to acute sleep apnea, or you have already tried making changes in your lifestyle or self-help methods, but have not obtained the desired results, it is essential that you visit a physician as soon as possible. In fact, visiting a sleep specialist will help, as he/ she will be able to assess your symptoms and also recommend an effectual cure for your condition. In recent times, treating sleep apnea has developed to a great extent and, therefore, you need to spend some time from your busy schedule to look at the latest available options. In case all your earlier efforts to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea have failed, it is very much possible that you will come across some treatment that will work for you and make you more at ease.
There are a number of new treatments for central sleep apnea as well as complex sleep apnea and these include the following.
Curing the original medical condition responsible for sleep apnea, for instance, any problem related to the heart or the neuromuscular. Secondly, the physician may also recommend the use of supplementary oxygen when you are asleep. Another method to treat this condition is to use breathing devices, which are also employed to deal with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
It is worth mentioning here that you will only get medicines that are meant to treat sleepiness related to sleep apnea and not for sleep apnea itself. Therefore, it is important that they ought to be used only together with other confirmed treatments for sleep apnea.
In case you have tried the various different treatments for sleep apnea, but are yet to receive comfort, it is advisable that you think about the surgical options and discuss the matter with your physician or any sleep specialist. In effect, when you undergo a surgery, it may help to make the size of the airway larger, which will eventually help in lessening the incidences of sleep apnea.
It is likely that the surgeon will get rid of the tonsils, any extra tissue at the rear of the throat or within the nose, or also get rid of the adenoids. Alternately, the surgeon may even reconstruct the jaw to increase the upper portion of the airway. However, it needs to be mentioned that undergoing surgery may also be associated with the hazards of complications as well as infections. Although rare, in some cases surgeries may also worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.