Sleep Apnea – Your Questions Answered
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Discovering you have sleep apnea can be full of so many unknowns, especially with how to treat this deadly disease. Having a condition that occurs while you are sleeping and are unaware of your body’s breathing patterns can be scary, and can leave you uncertain of which treatment route to take. How sleep apnea affects your body, what risks are involved if left untreated, and types of treatment methods other than a traditional CPAP machine are all important once you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. We rounded up 10 of the most common questions related to sleep apnea to help you along your journey to safe, comfortable sleep and improve quality of life.
Why Does Sleep Apnea Cause Weight Gain?
To understand why sleep apnea causes weight gain, it is important to first understand how sleep apnea interrupts your sleep cycle. Sleep apnea, at its core, is a condition in which your body stops and starts breathing throughout the night. There can be many reasons for this, including genetics, weight, and many more.
As your body works to restart the breathing after it has stopped, it can wake you up and disrupt your deep sleep patterns. This can leave you feeling tired throughout the day, which is a hallmark symptom of sleep apnea. In addition, the period of time in which your body has stopped breathing causes a lack of oxygen to the brain and bloodstream which can lead to more health issues.
In addition, your body requires sleep in order to recharge. The less oxygen you are receiving means you are less able to burn calories during the day. If your body is not able to fully rest and recharge, losing weight is extremely difficult.
Since you are feeling so tired throughout the day, you might be more inclined to reach for sugary drinks or foods to help keep your energy levels up. In addition, exercise is often put on the backburner due to a lack of energy. Combining extra calories to stay alert with a lack of exercise puts many sleep apnea sufferers on the fast track to weight gain.
How To Treat Sleep Apnea Without CPAP?
CPAP machines are the most common methods used to treat sleep apnea. CPAP machines create more pressure in your throat so that the airways do not become blocked, which leads to snoring and sleep apnea. While they are effective in treating sleep apnea, they can quickly become cumbersome. They are often loud, tedious to clean and take care of, are difficult to travel with, and can sometimes be uncomfortable. As such, this can lead people to wonder about other ways they can treat their sleep apnea without having to use a CPAP machine.
In addition to CPAP machines, sleep apnea can be treated with the following alternatives:
- Weight loss. A large percentage of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight and, in some cases, weight loss can help sleep apnea symptoms or even cure it completely.
- Oral devices. A couple of key factors in preventing sleep apnea are keeping the jaw forward and the tongue in place, and getting fitted for an oral device can help achieve just that.
- Oral surgery. One of the most effective ways of treating sleep apnea is oral surgery, which includes eliminating extra tissue to adjust obstructions in the way of comfortable breathing.
- Expansion. Airway Expansion Device is a non-invasive approach to preventing and possibly eliminating sleep apnea. The dental-oral expansion device grows the upper and lower arches to their ideal and maximum potential. It gently and painlessly expands the upper and lower jaw in three dimensions to slowly increase the size of the maxilla, gradually widens the floor of the sinus, and progressively enlarges the size of the airways. The Airway Expansion Device is perfect for patients struggling with CPAP and looking for a comfortable, and discreet alternative solution.
Are Snoring And High Blood Pressure Related?
It can be hard to believe that the simple act of snoring can affect your blood pressure so much — but it does. According to a Harvard University study, nighttime interruptions in breathing, or “apneas,” starve the brain of oxygen and stress out the cardiovascular system. Inadequately treated OSA comes with a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In addition, daytime sleep apnea-related drowsiness can cause people to become more easily stressed, fatigued, and prone to accidents which can cause more consistent high blood pressure than in individuals who do not have sleep apnea.
High blood pressure causes cardiovascular issues that can be dangerous to the body in many ways. It can cause damage to the heart, lungs, brain, kidney, and eyes that can sometimes be irreversible.
More risks for untreated high blood pressure include:
- Increased risk for heart attack, stroke, hypertension, and heart failure
- Vision problems
- Kidney damage
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased anxiety
What Are The Side Effects Of Sleep Apnea?
Suffering from a condition that occurs while you are asleep and unaware can be put lower on the priority list of things to address. If you’re not aware it is happening, then what is the harm? In fact, there are many harms and side effects that you may not even be aware of are directly related to your sleep apnea. These include:
- Loud Snoring
- Snorting or Gasping for Air
- Frequent Nighttime Urination
- Morning Headaches
- Daytime Sleepiness
- Memory Loss
- Lack of Energy
- Drowsy Driving
- Excessive Stress
- Cardiovascular Strain
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Increased Risk for Accidents
- Weight Gain
- High Blood Pressure
- Chronic Cough
- Frequent Sore Throat
- Difficulty Swallowing
Can Sleep Apnea Be Cured Naturally?
It is natural to wonder if a condition you are suffering from can be cured naturally and without the need for doctors, expensive machines, surgery, and fittings for oral devices. While there is no single cookie-cutter cure for sleep apnea other than surgery, there are natural remedies that can help and, in some cases, possibly cure sleep apnea.
- Weight loss. As mentioned previously, obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can help sleep apnea, although, this is not always the case. People who have a healthy weight can suffer from sleep apnea due to anatomic obstruction and weight loss cannot help this.
- Adjusting sleep position. Laying on your back can increase snoring, so simply adjusting your position at night can help make breathing easier. This can be difficult to accomplish, since you are asleep and unaware of how your body is most comfortable moving toward laying. Using pillows as a prop or a helpful partner can have a positive effect.
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking. A side effect of alcohol is snoring and interrupted sleep because it relaxes the throat muscles that control your breathing. Combining this with existing sleep apea can make things worse, so avoiding alcohol can ease your symptoms. In addition, smoking is a risk factor for sleep apnea, so avoiding this can help lower your risk factor.
- Try a humidifier. Humidifiers are very helpful for individuals who suffer from congestion by opening the airways, allowing for easier breathing. It can also help sleep apnea symptoms by clearing the airways in some cases.
How Do I Find Out If I Have Sleep Apnea?
Obviously, one of the most difficult parts about sleep apnea is that the person suffering from it isn’t even aware that they have it. Off-the-cuff remarks from your partner about your snoring, fatigue you can write off to stress from your job, or a sore throat you have been blaming on allergies can be easily confused. Snoring can often be written off as a nagging complaint from your loved one, however, if the complaints are frequent, it is important you pay attention as it is the first and hallmark sign of sleep apnea.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring. As mentioned, if your partner is making repeated remarks about your loud snoring, don’t write it off. Take it seriously and pay attention to see if you have more of the following symptoms.
- Gasping or choking at night. Ask your partner to pay attention to see if you’re gasping or choking at night, or set up a recording device to listen to in the morning.
- Frequent headaches. The lack of oxygen can cause headaches in the morning, so if you are getting these a lot, it can be a symptom of sleep apnea.
- Sore throat and dry mouth. Snoring can be loud, which causes a sore throat and dry mouth from mouth breathing.
- Frequent urination at night. According to the National Institutes of Health, the lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnea will stimulate blood flow to the kidneys, causing increased urination.
- Decreased energy. If you find yourself frequently fatigued, tired, and constantly reaching for that cup of coffee — it may be related to your sleep apnea.
What Happens If Sleep Apnea Is Not Treated?
You may be annoying your partner with loud snoring and feeling a bit tired in the morning, but is that enough to want to take sleep apnea seriously enough for treatment? This is a common thought that people have, which makes it important to understand what can happen if you leave sleep apnea untreated.
The lack of oxygen that occurs with sleep apnea causes a host of problems other than fatigue and snoring. It can cause long-term memory and cognition issues, increased risk of stroke and heart attack, cardiovascular issues, weight gain which can lead to obesity-related issues, dementia, brain damage, bladder issues, mood issues, cognitive dysfunction, and worst of all — sudden cardiac death.
Do Nose Plug Vents Work For Sleep Apnea?
Nose vents are a gadget to help snoring by opening the airways. They are inserted into the nostrils to dilate them, manually opening the nostril airways to allow for better airflow. While nose plug vents can help decrease snoring in many people, it doesn’t always help eliminate sleep apnea completely.
To understand why nose plug vents don’t always work for sleep apnea, it is important to understand the three types of sleep apnea.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: The most common form, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway has been blocked, such as from tissue relaxing in the back of the throat.
- Central Sleep Apnea: When central sleep apnea (CSA) is present, the brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea: Mixed, or complex, sleep apnea involves a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea.
If you suffer from Central Sleep Apnea or Mixed Sleep Apnea, a nose plug vent wouldn’t do much to help your condition except to cut down on only one of your symptoms – snoring. Even if you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, it may be caused by genetics, such as large tonsils or extra tissue, that cannot be helped with a device such as nose plug vents.
What Are Permanent Treatments For Sleep Apnea?
The thought of needing a CPAP machine for the rest of your life can be a cumbersome one, which can easily lead people to wonder what permanent treatments are available for sleep apnea. Oral surgery for sleep apnea can greatly reduce sleep apnea events during the night, which allows patients to get rid of their CPAP machines and have a great night’s sleep.
Our clinic specializes in permanent treatments for sleep apnea. After the patient has received a sleep apnea diagnosis, Dr. Martin Gorman will talk with them about their symptoms, review their medical history, and may perform a 3D scan utilizing state-of-the-art dental technology to evaluate possible obstructions. Once he is familiar with the details of their condition, Dr. Gorman will create a personalized treatment plan with the goal of improving their nighttime breathing.
If you are ready to make a permanent change to your sleep apnea and feel better with more energy, we’re here to help you. With 44 years of experience, we are committed to providing you with the kind of service we would want for ourselves and our families.
Find out more about Dr. Gorman and the Gorman Heath and Wellness Center by visiting www.mgormandental.com