If you suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), you’re not alone. OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, affecting 4% of men and 2% of women. It’s thought, however, that only about 10% of people with OSA seek treatment so the number may be much higher.
- What causes OSA?
OSA is caused by a blockage of the airways during sleep. This can be a partial or complete blockage. As you sleep, your throat muscles relax, and allow the tongue to fall back and block airflow. When this happens, your body wakes up so you can breathe.
Once a breath is taken, the person returns to sleep, but this does not stop the cycle. This period of blockage, being unable to breathe, being woken up, and then falling back asleep again can happen up to hundreds of times a night, deepening on the person.
- Some factors that determine OSA are:
A person’s weight can determine if they snow or not. Individuals who are overweight or obese are more likely to have sleep apnea than those that maintain a healthy weight. Because excessive fatty tissues build up in the neck, the airway can become smaller, and restrict airflow during sleep.
It’s a sad fact: as people age their muscles begin to lose muscle tone. This muscle tone loss is also true of the muscles in the throat. Just like arm muscles that lose their definition and become weaker if they’re not used, throat muscles become more vulnerable and are more likely to impede airways while you sleep.
If you’re a frequent drinker, alcohol may be a cause for your OSA. When we drink, our bodies, including our muscles, relax. With alcohol in our system when we sleep, our tongues can fall and block our airways, or our throat muscles can become so relaxed that we snore when we sleep.
Smoke is an irritant to the lungs, throat, and esophagus. It can cause inflammation in the upper airways that can block airflow.
- Can I cure my OSA?
As you may have come to realize, snoring can be caused by many factors. The best way to help your problem snoring, or OSA, is first to understand why you’re snoring. If you suspect alcohol or cigarettes are to blame, a lifestyle choice may be in order.
Consider losing weight or quitting smoking. You may also want to stop drinking alcohol, especially right before bed.
You can also try to adjust the way you sleep. Consider sleeping on your side (prop a pillow up to keep you from rolling back over) or propping the head of your bed up.
Keep your nasal passages open at night with nasal sprays, or allergy medications. Talk to your doctor before taking these medications if you’ve never needed them before.
If you’ve tried these options, but nothing is helping, consider seeing a professional sleep specialist. The specialist will help you decide what your next best course of action will be. They may recommend a mouthpiece that will keep your airways open as you sleep, or suggest using a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine is the most common treatment for sleep apnea in adults. A CPAP machine consists of a mask that fits over your mouth and nose. As you sleep, the machine blows air into your throat and helps to keep your airways open while you sleep.
Topics: Sleep Apnea