Sleep Apnea is a medical condition that’s prevalent not only in western countries but across the world.
The most common form of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which prevents people from breathing for 10 to 30 seconds. Its risk has been increasing along with the rising obesity epidemic.
So why is sleep apnea a problem?
It increases the risk of most chronic health diseases, including daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, anxiety, cardiovascular events, impotence, and even sudden death.
Not having a proper night’s sleep because of a sleep-related condition is serious, and it needs to be prevented earlier to prevent adverse harm.
What’s sleep apnea
Sleep Apnea is a severe disorder that occurs when your breathing is disturbed when sleeping at night. Individuals suffering from sleep apnea usually stop breathing multiple times during the night, but some might not even notice.
If left untreated, Sleep Apnea can promote the development of numerous chronic health disorders, including diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart failure, heart attacks, and cardiomyopathy. Also, untreated sleep apnea can lead to job impairment, car accidents, and work-related accidents,
Obstructive and Central are the two common forms of Sleep Apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA is the most prevalent form of Sleep Apnea. It occurs because of repetitive episodes that occur due to partial or complete blockage of the upper airway during sleep. The blockage reduces the amount of oxygen flowing to your vital organs, and cause heart rhythm irregularities.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central Sleep Apnea is not caused by blockage of your airway, but the failure of your brain to control muscles involved in breathing. As a result, you’ll experience slower breathing. Central apnea is mostly associated with the functioning of the central nervous system.
The Prevention measures of sleep apnea
Although there is no direct way to prevent sleep apnea, there are numerous lifestyle activities that can prevent the condition. To manage OSA, your doctor or physician may recommend that you:
Change your sleeping position
Everyone has a favorite sleeping position, but changing it can help to prevent sleep apnea, reduce snoring, and even improve the symptoms of sleep apnea.
The best sleeping conditions to prevent and improve sleep apnea include:
- Sleeping on your right side
- Sleeping on your left side
- Sleeping on your belly
- Finally, sleeping on your back with your head elevated with a sleep apnea pillow.
However, sleeping on your back is not recommended by doctors. When sleeping on your back, physiological and gravitational forces increase the tendency of your jaw, tongue, and soft plate to drop back to your throat. This narrows the airways, causing breathing difficulties.
Sleeping on your stomach might not be convenient too. Since gravity pulls your tongue and palate forward. As a result, your mouth and nose end up being blocked or impaired by your pillow.
Overall, back and stomach sleeping positions are not ideal since they obstruct breathing.
Eat Healthy and Exercise Regularly
Sleep is an essential part of life, just like food. Poor sleep influences your food choices and also trigger cravings. In fact, research shows that people who sleep less often tend to have irregular eating habits like eating more high-calorie food as well as fewer vegetable and fruit.
But did you know your food choice can also affect your sleep?
Poor food choices can lead to weight gain or obesity, which is a major risk factor for OSA. Filling your plate with fruits, whole grains and vegetables will help you tackle obesity and prevent you from developing sleep apnea. A healthy diet can also help to reduce other symptoms of sleep apnea.
There’s no need for us to explain the importance of physical activities. But when you’re suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, exercise is not just a recommendation, it’s a necessity.
Snoring occurs because of lack of oxygen in our bodies. Exercising will increase the flow of blood and oxygen to your organs. Also, it will strengthen your heart, increase energy, and alleviates symptoms of sleep apnea.
If you have sleep apnea, focus on excising your neck and legs because these areas are inclined to the accumulation of fluids which creates pressure on surrounding vessels and blood flow.
In addition, try out various breathing techniques to boost your oxygen levels and reduce sleep interruptions.
Overweight or obesity is among the primary cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and maybe the core risk factor in about 60% of the cases.
Obesity especially on your upper part contributes to the narrowing of the airway. According to research, an increase in weight by 10% can increase the risk of getting OSA by six-folds.
Having a healthy body weight can help you keep your airways clear and minimize the risk of developing OSA. Furthermore, weight reduction eliminates the need for upper airway surgery and long-term use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure(CPAP) in people with sleep apnea.
Stop Smoking and using sedatives
Individuals who smoke, particularly regular smokers have a higher risk of developing OSA than individuals who don’t. Smoking usually increases inflammation and reduces the function of the upper airway.
Taking sedative, benzodiazepine, opioids, and alcohol, especially during bedtime will relax the muscles in the back of your throat, making it easier for the airway to become obstructed.
And just like smoking, they might cause the inflammation of your airways, potentially interfering with your breathing and worsening your snoring if you already have sleep apnea.
When you quit drinking and smoking, you will improve both your health and sleeping cycle.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a severe medical disorder that can seriously affect the quality of life of those people suffering from it. Apart from causing excessive daytime sleepiness, it can lead to many other chronic conditions, most notably cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension.
While there are no effective medications to treat this condition, there are several diets and lifestyle changes that can help you prevent and even ease the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Remember to always consult your doctor or physician before pursuing any lifestyle change.