Sleep apnea is a chronic condition in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when soft tissue in the throat blocks the airway, resulting in temporary breathing cessation. Sleep apnea can range from moderate (fewer than five instances of stopped breathing each hour) to severe (thirty or more breath stoppages in an hour), and can often have negative effects on health and quality of life, including daytime fatigue and snoring. Left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other problems.
Although anyone can suffer from sleep apnea, there are certain genetic and lifestyle factors that can increase someone’s risk of having the disorder. Certain factors, such as gender and ethnic background (men, as well as people of Hispanic and African American origin, are more likely to have sleep apnea) cannot be controlled. However, other factors, such as smoking and obesity, can often be ameliorated or eliminated through lifestyle changes. Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for sleep apnea. Quitting smoking can have a dramatic impact on sleep apnea, and can reduce or eliminate symptoms. Similarly, overweight individuals are at increased risk for sleep apnea. Losing weight can be tremendously helpful in controlling or eradicating the problem.
For some people, lifestyle changes are not enough to eliminate sleep apnea. For these individuals, mechanical means, such as special mouth appliances designed to be worn during sleep, special pillows, or CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices, can all be helpful in relieving symptoms of sleep apnea. Specially designed mouth guards can help to position the jaw in such a way as to keep the airway open. Wedge-shaped foam pillows can position the sleeper so that their upper body is elevated, which is helpful in eliminating airway obstruction. For people with more severe sleep apnea, a CPAP device works by blowing a continuous stream of pressurized air through a mask during sleep, forcing the airway open and preventing dangerous breath stoppages. Because of the risks posed by untreated sleep apnea, it’s important for sufferers to explore treatment options to find one that works for them.
Edison Home Health Care is happy to advise and assist you or any loved one who seek appropriate care for sleeping problems. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.