This blog will help you lift the fog off the most prevalent sleep apnea type: ObstructiveSleep Apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start because of obstruction in the upper airway in the throat. When the air supply is continuously interrupted, blood oxygen levels drop significantly. With sleep apnea, this can happen hundreds of times a night.
WHAT CAUSES OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?
During sleep, the muscles in your body relax, except for the throat muscles that aid in breathing. When these throat muscles in the upper airway are weakened, they may collapse during sleep, closing the airway. Lack of air in the blood forces your brain to wake you up, to start breathing again. This is also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
HOW TO IDENTIFY IF YOU HAVE OSA?
The only definitive way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea is to monitor your sleep. However, the following symptoms can indicate the possibility of the condition:
- Multiple awakenings in the night: If you wake up suddenly at night, gasping for breath with a dry mouth, you may not be getting enough oxygen for your cells and organs.
- Snoring: Snoring is a result of an obstruction in the upper airway of the throat, the exact setting for sleep apnea. Roughly 50% of snorers are likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
- Morning headache: A morning headache could imply that the brain did not receive enough oxygen during the night.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness: Also called Hypersomnia, this happens because of a lack of restful sleep and hampers attentiveness and cognitive capacity during the daytime.
WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE OSA SERIOUSLY?
Approximately 80% of apnea cases go undiagnosed in India. Untreated sleep apnea can be potentially life-threatening and leads to the following health complications:
- Heart health deterioration: Because of the lack of oxygen supply, the heart pumps faster to compensate, developing undue strain. Varying oxygen levels in the blood leads to building up of plaque in the arteries, narrowing them and increasing the risk of heart diseases, strokes, and hypertension.
- Diabetes: Sleep apnea negatively affects glucose metabolism and increases insulin resistance – leading to Type-2 Diabetes.
- Sleep deprivation: Sleep apnea carries with it the added frustration of never having enough restful sleep because of multiple interruptions throughout the sleep duration. Sleep deprivation is associated with anxiety, depression, and memory loss.
- Fatigue: With sleep apnea, fatigue creeps into daily life, resulting in poor performance at work, disinterest in social interactions, and difficult relationships.
WHAT ARE THE AVAILABLE OPTIONS TO TREAT OSA?
Since snoring and sleep apnea both happen because of the narrowing of the upper airway, the treatment options are similar. The most popular and proven ways to treat sleep apnea, in descending order of their effectiveness, are mentioned below:
- Lifestyle changes: Usually the most cost-effective and also the most difficult option in the list. Obesity is a major determinant of sleep apnea. Losing weight reduces the fat deposits around the throat muscles, increasing the size of the airway. Alcohol and smoking make apnea worse. Quitting these aggravators can show immediate improvement.
- CPAP: CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is commonly used by Sleep Apnea patients. It involves wearing a mask that is connected by a tube to a pump that keeps the inhaled air pressure higher than usual. CPAP is the first line of treatment for sleep apnea and is also super-effective.
- Dental devices: Best made by a dentist, these oral appliances are recommended for people who aren’t comfortable with CPAP masks. These devices hold the jaw forward to prevent the tongue from collapsing during sleep and narrowing the throat airway.
- Surgery: For people who can’t adjust to either CPAP or oral appliances, jaw advancement surgery is the last option. This surgery involves readjusting the placement of the lower jaw to increase the size of the upper airway.
If you can relate to any of the above-mentioned symptoms in this blog, do not hesitate to get yourself checked with a sleep expert. A polysomnography test is done for the diagnosis of OSA currently. A more convenient alternative is to track your sleep regularly with Dozee. Dozee tracks your vitals against your healthy baseline and warns you well in advance of any health deterioration, which gives you plenty of time to diffuse the health problem. For more info on how Dozee tracks your sleep, read here.