Know About Sleep Apnea And Its Management

Millions of people around the world suffer from the sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. It is characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, which can last from few seconds to several minutes. These pauses can occur many times per hour, and they can have significant impact on the quality of sleep and overall health. The person is called to have ‘severe’ sleep apnea if the pauses are more than 30 per hour. The two primary kinds of sleep apnea areobstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is the more common of the two and occurs when the airway is blocked partially or completely during sleep, often due to the relaxation of the muscles in the throat. This can cause the person to stop breathing for a brief period, leading to repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night.

CSA, on the other hand, occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. This can result in periods of shallow breathing or pauses in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that, if ignored, can result in a number of health issues. People with sleep apnea are at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. They may also experience symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, headache, memory and concentration problems, and depression.

There are several steps that people can take to manage sleep apnea and improve their sleep quality. These steps include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of sleep apnea, as excess weight can put pressure on the airways and make it more difficult to breathe. Losing weight can help improve breathing and reduce the severity of sleep apnea.
  • Avoiding alcohol and sleeping on your side: Alcohol can relax the muscles in the throat and make it more difficult to breathe during sleep. Sleeping on your back can also worsen symptoms of sleep apnea, as gravity can cause the tongue and other soft tissues to collapse into the airway. Sleeping on your side can help improve breathing and reduce the severity of sleep apnea.
  • Using a humidifier: Dry air can worsen symptoms of sleep apnea, as it can dry out the throat and make it more difficult to breathe. Using a humidifier can help add moisture to the air and reduce symptoms.
  • Practicing good sleep hygiene: This can include going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants before bed, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Avoiding napping during the day: Long naps during the day can interfere with night-time sleep and worsen symptoms of sleep apnea.
  • Making changes to your sleep environment: This can include making sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable, using blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light, and using a white noise machine to reduce noise levels.
  • Using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy: CPAP therapy involves wearing a mask over your nose or mouth during sleep to deliver air pressure that helps keep the airway open. This can help improve breathing and reduce symptoms of sleep apnea.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help relax the body and reduce stress, which can in turn improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of sleep apnea.
  • Avoiding drugs and medications that worsen sleep apnea: Some drugs and medications can worsen sleep apnea, such as sedatives, sleeping pills, and opioids. Talk to your doctor about any medications you take and whether they may be contributing to your sleep apnea.
  • Seeking professional help: If you are struggling to manage your sleep apnea on your own, it may be helpful to seek professional help. This can include seeing a sleep specialist, undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy, or trying other treatments such as oral appliances or surgery.
  • In conclusion, there are many ways to manage sleep apnea and improve sleep quality, including maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping on your side, using a humidifier, practicing good sleep hygiene, avoiding napping during the day, making changes to your sleep environment, using CPAP therapy, practicing relaxation techniques, avoiding drugs and medications that worsen sleep apnea, and seeking professional help. By making these changes, you can reduce symptoms of sleep apnea and improve your overall quality of life.

    Dr. Gyanendra Agarwal
    Department of Internal Medicine, Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine
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