Sleep deprivation, nasal congestion and sleeping on your back can worsen sleep apnea. Also, our lifestyle is a factor that contributes to snoring. Drinking alcohol can worsen sleep apnea by reducing the activity of the upper airway and dilating muscles that prevent the airway from closing over during sleep.
As a consequence, you will be spending more time in light sleep and less time in the deep, restorative sleep that you will need to be energetic, mentally sharp, and productive the next day.
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to more severe health consequences. These are some examples.
- Increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart
attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes
- Increase the risk of, or worsen, heart failure
- Irregular heartbeats
- Increase in chance of having work-related or
If you suspect that you are having sleep apnea because of habitual snoring and choking episodes, you should visit a sleep specialist and obtain a detailed medical history and physical examination. Often, a sleep study will be conducted. Breathing, blood oxygenation level, snoring, brain activity and many other parameters are monitored. The sleep study will enable the doctor to diagnose and assess the severity of the condition.
How can you treat sleep apnea?
The basic objective of treating OSA and reversing all the complications is to prevent the upper airway from collapsing inwards during sleep. The various options available include:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
- Upper airway surgery
- Oral appliances
- Lifestyles modifications
Another option is wearing an oral appliance designed to keep your throat open. CPAP is more effective than oral appliances, but oral appliances may be easier for you to use. Surgical options have success rates rarely higher than 65% and often deteriorate with time.
In my opinion, success rate for all these procedures may not be 100% effective as they are often only between 50-70% effective. The most effective way is to modify your lifestyle. People who have sleep apnea are mostly overweight, partial weight loss (10%) may improve the condition and reduce the risk for more severe health consequences.
- www.sleepapnea.org -- American Sleep Apnea Association
- www.aasmnet.org -- American Academy of Sleep Medicine
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