If the sonorous chorus of a loved one’s snoring has you at your wit’s end, rather than burying your face in your pillow and lambasting them in the morning for their motorcycle muffler cacophony, you may wish to suggest they see the doctor instead. Frequent snoring, particularly when punctuated by moments of “interrupted” snoring, can be signs of a potentially life threatening condition called sleep apnea. It is a serious concern worthy of both your attention, and that of your nighttime vocalist whose life you might just save as a result of your vigilance.
Is It Sleep Apnea?There are two forms of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to communicate effectively with the nerves responsible for patterned breathing, and obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a hyper-relaxation of the muscles in the throat. Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common of the two, and the one we’re choosing to discuss today, can be managed effectively. Knowing the warning signs and the associated risks is the first goal. Then, combatting the condition with a visit to the doctor and initiating lifestyle habits that work toward removing the condition from your life is the second.
Here are some warnings sings of potential sleep apnea:
- Being startled awake by a choking or gasping sensation
- Consistent, loud snoring that is interrupted by brief periods of up to a minute without snoring
- Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
- Awakening with headache pain, a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning chest pain
- Moments during sleeping when the snorer is observed as not breathing
- Unexplained mood swings
- High Blood Pressure
Risks of not addressing sleep apnea include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, tachycardia, and heart attack
- Worsening of ADHD
- Lose weight: research suggests even a moderate 10% loss in weight can help reduce or eliminate sleep apnea events in patients.
- Avoid alcohol late at night: Because it relaxes the muscles in the mouth, consuming alcoholic beverages too close to bedtime can result in apnea.
- Elevate your sleeping position: A 30° incline in pillow, or bed height has been shown to help apnea sufferers. It also has the added benefit of reducing nighttime GERD complications.
- Mouthguards: Your dentist likely carries a mouthguard that can help reduce the slippage of the jaw and tongue that contribute to sleep apnea symptoms.