You have recently undergone a sleep study, and after analyzing the data, your physician and somnologist conclude that you have sleep apnea. Equipment such as The LOOKEE® Sleep Oxygen Monitors are great tools to help in determining your oxygen levels while sleeping. So what steps can you take to effectively manage this sleep disorder and stop it from taking control of your life? By using the recommended apnea treatments suggested by your doctor in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, you can ease the symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening.
Does Untreated Sleep Apnea Get Worse Overtime?
Specific lifestyle factors can indirectly contribute to the aggravation of sleep apnea symptoms. This includes neglecting physical health as statistics show that more than 40% of individuals who are obese suffer from sleep apnea and 70% of patients diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are obese. Based on the association between obesity and sleep apnea, it can be said that if weight gain is not managed, it can indefinitely worsen the effects of sleep apnea and lead to further restlessness.
Both obesity and sleep apnea have been linked to cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Sleep apnea, in particular, increases the odds of individuals developing these health conditions because the disorder often causes hypoxia, an insufficient supply of oxygen to the blood. Hypoxia occurs during apnea events where breathing does not take place, and the body is deprived of oxygen. The long-term effects of recurrent episodes of hypoxia lead to the development of hypertension which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. If the condition goes untreated, it will lead to an increased number of apnea events throughout the night and severe heart and blood pressure complications.
If you fear that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, our LOOKEE® Sleep Oxygen Monitors allow you to record the number of apnea events experienced throughout the night as well as any drops in your blood oxygen levels. These stats can be given to a sleep specialist to assist in diagnosing whether or not you have sleep apnea.
Where To Start With Treating Sleep Apnea
The first step to treating sleep apnea is being aware of the form of sleep apnea that you are suffering from. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form, is characterized by the repetitive obstruction or narrowing of the pharyngeal airway during sleep. This is due to the muscles and tissues based in the throat relaxing. When the upper airway is blocked, air cannot reach the lungs, and breathing is temporarily cut off. Thus, it is common for individuals suffering from untreated OSA to wake up in a panic, gasping for air.
Central sleep apnea (CSA) has become known as a rarer sleep disorder because it is seen in less than 10% of patients who undergo polysomnograms (sleep studies that assist in diagnosing sleep disorders). The symptoms of CSA are similar to that of OSA; however, the cause differs. CSA occurs due to a lack of respiratory regulation. During sleep, the brain fails to send the correct signals to the body to keep breathing, and it is temporarily cut off.
The last form of sleep apnea is just as rare as CSA. Complex sleep apnea is experienced by an individual who suffers from both OSA and CSA. It can prove to be a debilitating sleep disorder because sleep apnea symptoms may persist even when a breathing machine is used.
Lifestyle Changes For Sleep Apnea Patients
Aside from inducing hypertension and cardiovascular complications, sleep apnea can seriously impact one’s lifestyle. Sleep deprivation can decrease quality of life by affecting mood, personal relationships, and productivity. Hence, it is of utmost importance that action is taken to alleviate the condition's symptoms before they worsen. The starting point for most sleep apnea treatments is a change in lifestyle. Regardless of medication or breathing machines, patients have to prioritize their physical health, which means fitting in a suitable diet and exercise routine.
A study performed by the American Medical Association had shown that a 10% increase in weight had been associated with a 6-fold increase in the odds of developing sleep apnea. The study also concluded that a 10% decrease in weight reduced the apnea-hypopnea index (number of apnea events recorded in an hour) by 26%.
The reason why obesity plays such a prevalent role in worsening sleep apnea links back to the upper airway. Obese individuals have excess fat and tissue surrounding their throats, which further contributes to the narrowing and thus obstruction of the airway. Patients should incorporate a 20-minute walk or another form of cardio into their day (yoga has also been highly recommended). Easing into an exercise routine should be followed by a gradual diet change. Experts recommend a diet consisting of high fiber, nutritious fruits, and refined carbs. These foods help patients stay fuller for longer without feeling heavy. Fatty meats that are hard to digest and full-fat dairy products that increase mucus production should be avoided.
The Sleep Apnea Diet
Foods To Eat
Foods To Avoid
Maintaining regular exercise and a healthy diet will also assist in keeping the heart healthy and blood pressure at an acceptable level. Medical experts have noted that habits such as extensive smoking, drinking, and the use of opioid medications can damage the throat tissue surrounding the upper airway. Hence, it is suggested that these habits be avoided as well.
Breathing Machines To Treat Sleep Apnea
Breathing machines treat sleep apnea symptoms by ensuring that oxygen passes through the upper airway so that respiration can take place. There are different kinds of breathing machines that each have specific purposes, but these devices often make use of a mask that is worn during the night when asleep.
Worried that your apnea treatments aren’t doing what they’re supposed to? The LOOKEE® Sleep Oxygen Monitors track PAP effectiveness by measuring your SpO2 levels throughout the night. When they drop below normal levels, a gentle vibration will wake you up to prevent an apnea event from occurring.
Obstructive sleep apnea is commonly treated using a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine. CPAP, also known as a continuous positive airway pressure machine, utilises a mask that supplies a constant flow of air through the nose. This airflow keeps the upper airway open so that breathing can continue uninterrupted during sleep. Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) is similar to CPAP; however, it uses pressure to push air into the lungs. This is done so that the diaphragm is pushed down to fill the lungs with air when normal breathing takes place.
Apnea events could persist despite the use of a CPAP or BiPAP machine. This could be due to an individual suffering from central or complex sleep apnea. A sleep specialist will then recommend using an automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) machine or adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV). These machines act to physically prop open the airway and adapt to specific breathing patterns as the user requires.
- Obesity, Sleep Apnea, and Hypertension
- The Effects of Sleep Apnea on the Body:
- Central Sleep Apnea Syndromes
- Eating Right When You Have Sleep Apnea
- Intermittent hypoxia, cardiovascular disease and obstructive sleep apnoea:
- Doctors who help with sleep apnea:
- Sleep Apnea Treatments:
- What is ASV? Treating Complex and Central Sleep Apnea