Sleep is important for the wellbeing of our bodies and minds. In fact, it is so important that most of us spend one-third of our lives in a slumbering state. During sleep, our bodies use this time to repair physical damage, alignment of our vital hormones take place, the circulatory system maintains an optimal balance and the immune system reloads and becomes ready to fight infections.
Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys good sleep. When we are not able to enjoy good, healthy sleep the risk of cardiovascular disease increases as hypertension sets in, our memory becomes poor and the onset of depression and bad moods appear sooner.
A significant number of people in the United States will not have a healthy sleep session tonight because of a condition known as sleep apnea. In fact, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association, it is estimated that 22 million people suffer from sleep apnea, with 80% remaining undiagnosed as moderate to severe sleep apnea.
But what is exactly sleep apnea? Sleep apnea or also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition whereas the tongue falls to the back of throat when sleep arrives causing a physical obstruction to the person’s airway. The common sufferer from OSA is obese, over 40-years-old, male, has a large tongue, may have a short neck or may have a low-ridding hard palate. Often, it is the sufferer’s sleep partner who reports of the sleep apnea describing the individual having loud, frequent snoring, prolonged periods of no breathing- apnea, and of restless sleep. The sufferer would report of falling asleep easily during the day, of feeling un-rested upon waking up and of feeling irritable and angry at times. Elevations in blood pressure are not rare from sleep apnea individuals.
The good news is that this is a totally treatable condition which literally improves overnight once the obstruction is managed.
The most commonly used and prescribed – a person needs a formal order from a medical provider – is what is called a CPAP machine. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine simply delivers a steady flow of air into the mouth and nose. By doing this, good oxygen-rich air easily enters the lungs and into the bloodstream. One of the most dramatic events that happens during and episode of apnea is that the oxygen content in the body drops to dangerous levels, generating the onset of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Understandably, some individuals are unable to tolerate the nose and mouth mask as they may find it constricting or bothersome.
There are options to using a CPAP machine for those who opt for another solution.
Losing weight is an inexpensive, common sense method of controlling OSA. By losing weight, the push of your abdomen against the chest lessens when laying down and it makes breathing much easier.
Some OSA sufferers opt to have a custom- made mouth guard which physically pushes the tongue out of the way. These devices are likely fine for mild cases of OSA but usually do not work for severe cases. Cost is a consideration as these can be expensive and not covered by medical insurance.
Surgical intervention to re-model the airway is another option. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, as it is known has a success rather of at most 40%. The procedure essentially takes tissue out from the back of the throat with the aim at making the upper airway larger. Good sleep is critical for a healthy life. Important body processes happen when we sleep therefore diagnosing it is essential. A simple, easy and painless sleep-study is all it takes to diagnose this condition. Once identified, it can be easily corrected by your primary care provider or by the ear, nose and throat specialist.