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Sleep apnea is a mild to serious sleeping condition that affects the total amount of time, and quality, of your sleep. This disorder causes you to stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer throughout the night, which often will wake you up or at least disrupt the quality of your sleep. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S. alone, mostly adults, and people who are overweight or obese are at a much greater risk of contracting the disorder. There are various treatment options available to people effected by sleep apnea, as well as many preventative measures that can help you avoid the disorder altogether.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three main types of sleep apnea that are recognized by doctors:
- Central sleep apnea (CSA)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- A combination of both types
The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by some sort of obstruction in your airway (i.e., enlarged uvula, tongue, nasal passages, etc-). Central sleep apnea is far less common, and it basically involves your brain not sending the proper signals to breathe. Both can lead to serious health issues if left untreated, including congested heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, and even sudden death.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
The only way to truly diagnose sleep apnea is to consult your doctor if you start to show some of the signs of the disorder. These symptoms may include:
- sleepiness throughout the day
- heavy snoring
- waking up frequently at night
- difficulty concentration
There’s a very useful chart called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale that is a simple test to diagnose sleep apnea. It’s not 100% accurate, but it can give you a good idea of whether or not you should be concerned about possibly having the sleep apnea disorder.
After ranking each category, the total score is calculated. The range is 0-24, and the higher the score, the more at risk for sleep apnea you are.
- 0-9 = Average daytime sleepiness
- 10-15 = Excessive daytime sleepiness
- 16-24 = Moderate to severe daytime sleepiness
If your score is 16 or higher, you may be at risk for having sleep apnea disorder, so go get checked out by your doctor asap.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
There are various treatment options available, and your doctor will let you know the best choice depending upon the severity of the disorder. Probably the most effective natural treatment option includes having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. People who are obese are at a far greater risk of contracting the disorder, so staying in shape is the key to lowering your risk (as it is for most other diseases!).
Other popular treatments include dental appliances, medications, and CPAP machines. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is a small machine that pumps air into your lungs while you sleep. You must were a mask each night, which many people find to be a little uncomfortable, but the treatment is very effective nonetheless.
Another option for the most severe cases would be surgery. There are different types of surgery available to treat sleep apnea, and it really should be considered a last resort.