Live a little better every day

Start now! Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your inbox

woman with sleep apnea

The Ins & Outs of Sleep Apnea

Over 18 million people in the United States have sleep apnea. It isn’t exactly a new disorder. And you don’t necessarily have to be overweight to have it. Yet, excess weight does significantly increase your chances.

The obesity epidemic poses many problems. It is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, amongst many other diseases and disorders.

Surprisingly, it can also greatly impact one’s sleep health (another reason to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle).

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, also frequently referred to as obstructive sleep disorder, is a condition where breathing is disrupted during your sleep. In other words, you stop breathing for at least 10 seconds. For the average person with sleep apnea, the breathing pause lasts 20-30 seconds.

It sounds scary. And it can be. For some, it happens hundreds of times a night, depriving the brain and tissues of necessary oxygen.

So, what is happening?

There are 2 different types of sleep apnea. The first and most common type is obstructive sleep apnea. Your muscles fail to keep your airway open - meaning you have durations of time where oxygen can’t reach your lungs.

The second type is called central sleep apnea - which is more neurological. The brain fails to send the appropriate nerve signals to breathe.

The problem? When you don’t inhale enough oxygen, your blood oxygen falls to dangerously low levels. You risk not just a bad sleep, but high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more.

Your mood may become affected - which can lead to mental issues, such as depression or anxiety. Your mental clarity and cognitive functioning may decrease - most noticeably, you might struggle to recall memories or facts. You might have trouble concentrating. It can be frustrating, especially for those that don’t realize they have it.

Who is at Risk?

Sleep apnea can occur for a variety of reasons. Common causes include:

  • A smaller upper airway or jaw bone.
  • Bigger tonsils, tongue, or uvula.
  • Excess weight.
  • Alcohol or drug use.
  • A large neck, which is defined as 16-17 inches or larger.

Other risk factors include being over the age of 40 and coming from a family that has a history of sleep apnea.

How Do I Know if I Have It?

Frequently, a proper test has to be done by a trained medical professional. However, there are tell-tale signs. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Are you a loud and frequent snorer?
  • Do you feel like you never get a good sleep?
  • Are you constantly waking up with a dry throat?
  • Do you feel like you have a constant lack of energy?
  • Do you frequently suffer from headaches in the morning?
  • Do you find your concentration and memory is poor?
  • Do you wake up frequently during the night?
  • Do you sometimes wake up gasping for air or choking?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, you may have sleep apnea. However, we suggest getting a professional’s opinion before drawing any major conclusions by yourself.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

If you think you might be suffering from sleep apnea, book an appointment with your family doctor. They may suggest you get a sleep test done.

A sleep test is conducted by a trained and qualified sleep specialist. Often, you have to go to the clinic to have it done - and don’t worry, you get a private room. They want you to get a similar sleep as you would at home. (Some places even offer these services in-home, but this is fairly rare and often only done for special cases.)

During your test, the sleep specialist will hook you up to their machines. They will then analyze and record your activity as you sleep. From this, it is determined if you have sleep apnea or not. Sometimes, further testing is necessary.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you and your doctor will determine a proper treatment plan. For some, it may involve lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or avoiding alcohol and smoking. For others, a change in sleeping position may be recommended.

The most well-known treatment method is the CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine. The CPAP involves wearing a mask as you sleep. The machine delivers a consistent flow of air through the mask. This keeps your airway open, allowing you to breathe easier.

Other treatment options include the wearing of dental devices. Similar to the CPAP, these keep your airway open. Surgery may also be considered, such as in certain cases where enlarged tonsils are an issue, the nasal passage is blocked, or the jaw is a problem.

It’s Your Sleep Health

Sleep is important! Although we haven’t fully narrowed down the science of it, we know we need it for proper cognitive functioning and cellular repair. It’s not something you want to mess with - nor should you!

Sleep deprivation is a real thing -, especially in today’s fast-paced society. We sleep less and work more. Perhaps we’ve got things backwards. Maybe we need to slow down. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself. If you think you have sleep apnea or if you have any other problems sleeping, contact your doctor. It’s not just about your sleep health - but also about your overall health and quality of life. Put your health first and lead the life you’ve always wanted - alert, awake, and ready to go!

Related Article: Wakey Wakey! Lifehacks to Become a Morning Person

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

Next Article

You May Also Like

How to Make Mummy Pizza Body
How to Make Mummy Pizza
How to Make Delicious Coconut Milk Banana Bread Body
How to Make Delicious Coconut Milk Banana Bread