While you may not be familiar with sleep apnea, over 25 percent of men in America have it as well as 10 percent of women. Here's everything you need to know about sleep apnea, its causes, cures, and treatment options.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes people to stop breathing for a few moments while they are sleeping. It can be dangerous. When a person snores while sleeping at night and yet wakes up in the morning feeling tired, it may be due to sleep apnea.
What causes sleep apnea?
When you sleep the soft tissues in your mouth, tongue, and throat relax. When you have sleep apnea, this tissue can block your airway momentarily, thus causing you to stop breathing. This is also referred to as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). While this happens most often with patients who are overweight or obese, there are other causes as well. Smoking, allergies, and even a naturally narrow throat can all cause sleep apnea symptoms.
Is there a cure for sleep apnea?
If the sleep apnea is due to being overweight or obese, losing weight should help alleviate the symptoms. If that proves difficult or if the sleep apnea has a different cause, there are medical sleep apnea oral appliances that can help.
What treatment options are available for OSA?
There are treatments available for people who suffer from sleep apnea, including:
- CPAP machines. The use of a CPAP machine, or continuous positive airway pressure therapy, is the most common method used to treat sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask that provides constant pressure to keep your airways open while you sleep. The mask is joined to a small machine on your nightstand via an air tube.
- Oral appliances. While CPAP machines are successful, they can be cumbersome and difficult to clean. Doctors are now experimenting with sleep apnea oral appliances, designed to keep your mouth open or your tongue in a specific position, similar to a mouthguard.
No matter which method you and your doctor choose, it can be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep while wearing a mask or mouthguard. Given time, most patients adapt to the change.
How often should you clean a CPAP machine?
Once you start using a CPAP machine to help you breathe better at night, you should also get in the habit of cleaning it every morning. You will also benefit from a deep clean on a weekly or monthly basis.
If you think you or your partner may have sleep apnea or if you wake up from a full night's sleep still tired and worn out, talk to your doctor. They can provide more information about sleep apnea, CPAP machines, and sleep apnea oral appliances.