Are you one of the 18 million Americans diagnosed with sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which the airways are blocked while you sleep, interrupting your ability to get sufficient rest, and leading to other serious health conditions.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you might be among the 2%-4% of people who live with it but are not diagnosed. If find yourself constantly exhausted, awaking in the middle of slumber gasping for air, or snoring loudly, you should probably talk to a doctor about a potential sleep apnea diagnoses. Living with untreated sleep apnea considerably hinders a person’s quality of life and can potentially be life threatening. If you believe you may suffer from sleep apnea, it is important to take the following steps to prevent any serious damage to your health:
- Develop a healthy diet and exercise habits. One of the greatest sleep apnea causes is obesity. If you suffer from sleep apnea and weigh more than the healthy range for your height and build, you may find considerable improvement if you lose weight. A study conducted in 2009 showed that participants who lost more than 24 pounds either significantly improved the severity of their symptoms or entirely eliminated their sleep apnea altogether.
- Decrease your cigarette and alcohol intake. If you smoke or drink, it could be contributing to your sleep apnea symptoms. Smoking inflames the upper airways and limits the amount of oxygen you are able to inhale. Alcohol reduces the muscle tone in the esophagus which makes it more likely to collapse while you are reclined. If you quit smoking and sharply reduce the amount of alcohol you intake, you may find your sleep apnea symptoms improve accordingly.
- Treat your allergy symptoms. If you suffer from allergies that cause sneezing, congestion, and runny noses, it is probably no surprise that the swelling of your nasal passages interferes with your ability to breath and aggravates your sleep apnea. Reducing your allergy symptoms may help your sleep apnea symptoms as well. Try using a saline nasal spray to clear out mucus blockage in your nasal cavity before going to sleep.
- See a doctor. Because the health implications of sleep apnea can be life-threatening, it is critical to get medical attention for sleep apnea symptoms. Your doctor will conduct a home sleep test for sleep apnea to get a gauge of the severity of your symptoms. Less severe symptoms can be treated with the lifestyle changes mentioned above, as well as non-intrusive devices such as a mouth piece that prevents your tongue from blocking your air passage. If your symptoms are serious and potentially life-threatening, your doctor might recommend a sleep apnea machine. A sleep apnea machine is a portable device that delivers constant air pressure to you through a tube connected to a mask that you wear while you sleep. The air flow provided by the sleep apnea machine ensures that nothing obstructs your air passages while you sleep.
Do you suffer from sleep apnea? Have you found any treatments that particularly help your symptoms? Please share your advice in the comment section below!