Sleep Apnea Treatment And Causes: How To Find A Path To Better Sleep

By ArtOfPillows | Sleep Remedies

Oct 18

Sleep!  How challenging is it for you?  Is it also challenging for your partner due to your loud persistent snoring?  Does your partner witness pauses in your breathing? Is your sleep restless?

You also need to ask yourself whether you are continually irritable or depressed. Do you suffer from poor concentration during the day or excessive daytime fatigue?  If you answer ‘yes’ to some of these questions then the chances are that you suffer from sleep apnea.

On this page, you’ll find information on how to recognize risk factors for sleep apnea and the effects of it. You’ll also find what treatments there are to counter-attack it.  You will find information on medical treatment as well as alternative and natural remedies.

You just need to decide which is the best treatment for you.

By following the advice given below you’ll be surprised at how your health and thereby your lifestyle will improve.


What Is Sleep Apnea?

People who have no problem with sleeping cannot conceive what it is like. Imagine being afraid to go to sleep in case you stop breathing.  Sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts breathing during sleep, up to 30 times per hour. You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out how many times a night that would be.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A less common form is central sleep apnea. Whichever form you suffer, the brain will be starved of the oxygen needed to support your body. This means that both forms can have life-threatening consequences for the sufferer.


What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnoea causes depend on which type of apnea you suffer from. For those suffering OSA the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses. This causes a blockage of the airway during sleep.

Central sleep apnea occurs when messages fail to be sent from the brain. These messages are important for signalling your muscles to breathe. This occurs due to instability in the respiratory control center, not by blocked airways.

What Are The Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

There are various factors leading to sleep apnea affecting people whatever their age. Not only adults, but also children can be affected. But men appear to suffer more than women in general.

Sleep apnea causes include:

  • Being overweight (especially obesity)
  • Age (most common in people over 40)
  • Having a large neck size (17 inches plus for men and 16 inches plus for women)
  • Problems with large tonsils, large tongue or even a small jaw bone
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids, large overbite (especially in children)
  • Problems with sinuses (caused by a deviated septum or allergies causing congestion)
  • Suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Smoking, abuse of alcohol and continuous use of sedatives
  • Being hereditary (member of a family who has an apnea history)


What Are The effects of Apnea?

Poor performance is one of the effects. Lack of sleep caused by sleep apnea can lead to poor performance at work. Not only at work, but also poor performance in your everyday activities

Driving a car after a sleepless night could lead to a fatal car crash. On the other hand, children who suffer apnea could end up underachievers academically. This could have a negative influence on their future lives.

Weight gain is almost a certainty. Due to lack of sleep the body releases more than usual stress hormones. This in turn leads to an increase in your appetite.

Also, as you are deprived of sleep your body lacks energy. You need more food for energy but this in turn slows down your metabolism

Being tired and hungry together is not the best situation to be in.  This leads to eating comfort foods instead of healthy foods resulting in weight gain.

Health problems can also arise when sleep apnea is left untreated.  Sleep deprivation has a definite impact on your heart’s health

Many apnea sufferers also suffer from high blood pressure.  This puts them at risk of suffering from a stroke.

Suffering from an irregular heartbeat is another risk that that has to be faced. This can cause heart failure or a heart attack.

Depression is not caused by sleep apnea directly.  But depression can often be a cause of sleep apnea. This in turn causes fatigue, which can have an effect on your mood, so the depression worsens.

Anxiety can arise after experiencing sleep deprivation over a longer period of time.  You suddenly find yourself feeling paranoid about things that would not normally bother you.

Decrease in mental alertness at work, at school or at college is almost certain.  Concentrating on the smallest detail becomes impossible when you suffer from insomnia.  Not surprising, one of the main factors of vehicle accidents is fatigue.


What Medical Treatments Are available?

Here are the main medical treatments available to you. You can speak with your family doctor as a first point of contact. Decisions like this should always be made with the advice of a medical expert.

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
  • Other airway pressure devices
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP)
  • Oral applications
  • Surgery
  • Therapy

CPAP is the most common sleep apnea treatment. This sleep apnoea machine is also the most reliable method of treatment.

A mask attached to the machine is placed on your nose.  This delivers just enough air pressure to keep your airways open.  Using a humidifier together with the apnea machine can also be a benefit

One complaint from users of CPAP is that the machine is cumbersome and uncomfortable.

Other airway pressure devices such as Auto-CPAP automatically adjust pressure during sleep. Bi-level positive airway pressure units (BiPAP) are also available.  More pressure is provided when you inhale and less pressure when you exhale.

This device enables you to breathe without problems.

Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) is a small single-use device. Placed over each nostril before going to sleep the devise enables air to move freely in. By directing air through small holes in the valve, pressure is increased in the airway when exhaling.

This results in keeping the airway open.

Oral applications are designed to keep your throat open, often by bringing your jaw forward.  They are easier to use than CPAP but not as effective.  Your dentist can give you advice on which one would be suitable for you.

Surgery should only be used as a last option when all else has failed.  Unless, of course, you have jaw structure problems, then it is a must.  You should consult your doctor when considering sleep apnea treatment options without cpap.

There are different types of surgery which can help with sleep apnea. As surgery enlarges the airway of your nose and/or throat it is important to get medical advice before making a decision.

Tissue removal: Tissue is removed from the back of your mouth and/or your throat. Normally, your adenoids and tonsils will be removed at the same time. This method is not as effective as CPAP and not advisable for OSA.

Jaw repositioning helps deter obstruction of the airway.  By moving the jaw forward from your face bones the area behind the tongue is enlarged.

Implants are plastic rods inserted into the palate which prevent blockage in the airway.

Creating an air passage (tracheostomy) may be necessary when all else fails and sleep apnea becomes life-threatening.

Surgery includes making an opening to the neck. The surgeon then inserts a tube, either plastic or metal, through the opening. This tube enables you to breathe more easily.

You should cover the opening during the day.  During the night, you should uncover it to allow air to pass through your lungs.  The air then bypasses the blocked air passage in your throat.

Nasal surgery which removes polyps or to straighten a diverged nasal septum is another possibility. Removal of enlarged tonsils or adenoids can clear or enlarge air passages. Surgery for weight loss can also contribute to clearing or enlarging air passages.


What Alternative Remedies Are Available?

Here are some of the most common remedies you can work on to improve your overall health and sleep.

  • Aim for a healthy weight
    Fat deposits around your airway can affect your throat muscles and obstruct breathing.  By eating a high-fiber diet you can reach a healthy body weight.  You should eat at least 25-30 grams of the following daily: fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, sprouted beans or legumes.
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking and sedative abuse
    Alcohol and sedatives can relax the throat muscles which are needed for breathing. Alcohol and Smoking can cause inflammation and fluid retention in the airways.  By avoiding these you will reduce the chance of apnea.
  • Treat acid reflux, congestion and coughs
    As these medical problems interfere with normal breathing it is important to treat them. This is possible by adjusting your diet and keeping your head raised while asleep.
  • Humidify your bedroom
    A humidifier in the bedroom can help reduce congestion. Eucalyptus oil rubbed onto your chest can also help clear your airways.
  • Adjust your sleeping position
    The best position for sleeping is on your side with a pillow elevating your head. This helps to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms.
    Sleeping on your stomach is also recommended while sleeping on your back should be avoided. Sleeping on your back causes your tongue to press against the back of your throat.  This in turn causes blockage of the airway.
  • Tongue exercises for apnea
    Your problem could be that you have a large tongue. Everyone’s tongue relaxes during sleep. If yours is large it can collapse and fall back down to your throat.
    By practicing special tongue and jaw exercises every day you will see positive results in almost 3 months.
  • Yoga exercises for apnea
    Mild symptoms of OSA can be controlled by using yoga breathing techniques. It is especially effective when used in combination with tongue exercises. Yoga exercises can also help reduce weight when used together with a healthy diet.
  • Increase airway muscle tone
    Singing and jaw exercises combined with a healthy lifestyle can help improve your sleep apnea. These exercises are only suitable for people whose lax muscles are the main cause of sleep apnea.

What Natural Remedies Are Available?

There are many natural sleep apnea remedies which can help reduce your problem.  One of the most effective cures is using natural herb remedies.

  • Herbal remedies can be effective and a safe solution to your problem. This is only possible providing the problem is not a severe one. For centuries, herbs have been considered as one of the best natural sleep apnea remedies available.If used together with the help of lifestyle changes they can at least improve your sleep disorder. It is common knowledge that herbal teas are especially beneficial in calming your body.
  • Valerian root has calming and sedating properties. Used together with St John’s wort it is beneficial for sleep problems caused by depression.
  • St John’s wort helps eliminates depression and nervous exhaustion. Combined with Valerian root it helps to promote sleep and relaxation.
  • Passionflower helps calm the nervous system but is not recommended for patients with depression. It is also not recommended for those with severe sleep apnea.
  • Chamomile is a relaxing antispasmodic herb.  Drinking chamomile tea helps calm your body. So, drinking it before going to bed will help you wind down and relax.


Your Apnea Has Improved

The results of sleep apnea can be physically and emotionally draining.  Your daily life can be wrecked through feeling tired, upset and irritable. Understanding what you can do to alleviate the condition will help you get your life back under control.

It may be challenging, but using various means to reduce stress and anxiety helps.  Stress and anxiety are two of the main factors causing sleep apnea and should be dealt with accordingly. Change your lifestyle and sleeping habits and see what a big difference it makes.

In consultation with your doctor, try using natural remedies before going in for surgery. In severe cases your doctor will advise medical treatment.  Whichever one works for you, you will be given a new lease of life.

About the Author

The Art of Pillows team are made up of a group of ex professional physicians and professional sleepers who’s passion is to spread the word about how important having the right pillow for your posture and needs is crucial to living a happy and healthy life.

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