Sleep Apnea: The Health Issue Right Under Our Noses

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Posted on: 27 April 2017 by Tracey Clayton

Sleep apnea is a serious health issue characterized by shallow breathing, snoring, and breathing pauses during sleep. As a result, people suffering from this sleep disorder usually feel fatigued and drained, mainly because they’re constantly waking up.

Sleep apnea is a serious health issue characterized by shallow breathing, snoring, and breathing pauses during sleep. Sometimes these pauses can last up to 10 seconds and they can occur from a few times a night to a hundred times a night. As a result, people suffering from this sleep disorder usually feel fatigued and drained, mainly because they’re constantly waking up. A strong link has been established between obesity and apnea, which means that more than half of people diagnosed with this unpleasant health condition are overweight or obese.

Causes and Symptoms

One of the most common forms of this disease is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and it affects both children and adults. There’s an alarming number of children in the U.S. who suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, and among them, almost 4 million children have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder occurs when the airways narrow so that it’s impossible to take a breath properly. Patients frequently wake up as they’re gasping for breath, and their sleep cycles are interrupted. The reason why they can’t get a good night’s sleep lies in the fact that they either never reach REM sleep or they wake up and go back to a lighter stage of sleep. However, since this happens over brief periods of time, people aren’t even aware that they have been waking up all night long. Snoring is one of the most frequent symptoms of apnea, while others include waking up with a sore throat, morning headaches, drowsiness during the day, irritability, or attention issues.

Obesity and OSA

When it comes to blocked airways, obesity is among the top culprits together with some physiological issues. Namely, excess fat tissue in the neck causes organ and tissue swelling, thus preventing the air from traveling through the airways. This vicious cycle of comorbidity between obesity and apnea goes the other way around, too. Sleep deprived people are more likely to gain weight, and a research study showed that they had higher levels of a hormone responsible for triggering appetite and lower levels of a hormone that was supposed to suppress it. Weight loss can significantly relieve apnea symptoms, and although it’s quite challenging for chronically fatigued people with shortness of breath to start working out, there are methods that can make it easier. Oral breathing devices that keep the airways open during the night can eliminate drowsiness, as well as excuses for not exercising. It wouldn’t be fair to pretend that it’s a piece of cake to hit the gym or go for a run for the first time in a while, but every lost pound will boost the motivation. Also, there are a lot of healthy supplements online that can help.

How It Affects Our Body and Mind

Apnea can severely affect both the body and mind. High blood pressure, enlargement of the heart, and diabetes are among the common side effects of this sleep disorder. When our body doesn’t get enough oxygen, it starts producing adrenaline in order to be able to handle the stress. Subsequently, this raises levels of sugar and ultimately leads to diabetes. When we’re talking about psychological aspects, constant fatigue and a lack of sleep can cause depression, and that’s yet another blow to deal with. Luckily, exercise is great for fighting depression, and yoga with its breathing techniques could be just what the doctor ordered.  

Treatment

Apnea is a complex condition and it requires several approaches in order to be kept under control. State-of-the-art medical devices, such as breathing machines that keep the airways open or skin implants that send signals to the tongue thus preventing it to pause breathing, can improve the life of people with apnea, but a complete change of a lifestyle is necessary. Sometimes, even obesity surgery is recommended, but if the problem is tackled before it escalates, such desperate measures can be avoided. Cigarettes are a big no-no for people suffering from this condition because they worsen the swelling of the upper airway. When it comes to kicking bad habits, alcohol is also blacklisted as it contributes to waking up at night.

Apnea shouldn’t be neglected because it can lead to serious consequences such as a stroke or heart disease. So, if you notice that you’re drained and sleepy throughout the day, and if you snore, make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

 

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