Managing Sleep Apnea: Your Guide to Dealing with the Sleep Disorder
Think you have sleep apnea? Have you already been diagnosed? As a disorder, sleep apnea can be very confusing. No worries, we’ve got you covered.
Some quick facts to know:It's not uncommon:Experts believe 46 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea:Obstructive sleep and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (when the soft tissue in your throat blocks your airway, often leading to loud snoring) is the most common form of the condition.
Learn the signs and symptoms:There are many different symptoms of sleep apnea. Here are a few:
- Loud and frequent snoring
- Choking sounds (as reported by others) 1f Morning headaches
- Memory loss
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Problems concentrating
Learn the risk factors (these might surprise you):Large neck size as risk factor: For men, a neck size of 17 inches or larger; for women, a neck size of 16 inches or larger
- Being male
- High blood pressure
- Extra weight
- Older age:
- Family members with the disorder
- Drinking alcohol or smoking
Talk to your doctor and ask the right questions
Internet research can only get you so far. Your doctor is the expert and the first resource for any questions you have. He or she can tell you more about available treatments and order necessary tests. This seems like an obvious step, but it's an important one. Here are some good questions to ask:
- How serious are my symptoms?
- Should I see another doctor or specialist?
- What kinds of tests do you recommend, if any?
- What treatment would be most effective?
- How quickly can I expect to experience an improvement?
Common Treatments: Lifestyle ChangesThere are a couple different lifestyle changes doctors recommend to treat sleep apnea.
- Weight management: As mentioned, thick necks are a common risk factor - something overweight people are more likely to have.
- Quit smoking
- Exercise more often: this seems like a frequent admonishment, but with sleep apnea, exercise can make a difference.
Common Treatments: SurgeryDon't worry! This is usually a last resort for sleep apnea sufferers. There are a couple different surgical procedures that can take place:
- Removing tonsils or excess tissue at the back of the throat
- Jaw reconstruction
- Rod implants
Common Treatments: CPAPLast but certainly not least, a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP is a machine that keeps airways open, allowing you to breathe easier. Each night, CPAP users attach the mask to their face right before sleeping. Most individuals keep their CPAPs at their bedside.
Clean your CPAPIf you take a moment to think about moisture living in CPAP masks and equipment, it's a little concerning. Then think about where that mask goes, every night. Even more concerning.It only takes one droplet of water in CPAPs for dangerous mold spores, mildew and bacteria to grow. These pathogens can lead to many health problems including (but not limited to):
- Difficulty breathing
- Chronic coughing
- Respiratory-related conditions