Sleep apnea, a condition that affects over 18 million people in just the US alone, is defined as a temporary suspension of breathing that occurs repeatedly during sleep. It is usually accompanied by heavy snoring. Essentially, it occurs when the throat briefly collapses or becomes restricted, thus causing pauses in your breathing. With pauses in breathing, the oxygen level in your blood may drop.
Primary causes include:
- Your throat muscles and tongue relax more than is normal.
- Your tonsils and adenoids are large.
- You are overweight. The extra soft tissue in your throat makes it harder to keep the throat area open. (As a side note, sleep apnea is 10 times more prevalent in NFL linemen than in the general population.)
- The shape of your head and neck results in somewhat smaller airway size in the mouth and throat area.
Side effects can include:
- loud snoring
- morning headaches
- poor quality sleep
- a dry mouth upon awakening
- high blood pressure
- increased risk of heart attack
- increased risk of stroke
- increased risk of having an automobile accident
- weight gain
- change in personality
- difficulty concentrating
- excessive perspiring during sleep
- reduced libido
- frequent nighttime urination
- restless sleep
- nocturnal snorting, gasping, choking (may wake self up)
- rapid weight gain
- confusion upon awakening
Bottom line: it is serious and can even be life threatening. It also tends to get progressively worse as you age and should not be taken lightly. There are many medical options, but they involve invasive or pharmaceutical options. If nothing else works for you, they can certainly be used. However, there are a number of options that exist that do a better job of actually getting rid of the underlying condition – a much better option.
- Lose weight.
- Sleep on your side.
- Use special pillows to optimize the opening of the throat.
- Don’t drink or use sleep medications which overly relax the throat.
- Get rid of allergies, which increase the restriction of the throat.
- Do exercises to improve throat tissue tone. (One of the best is the yoga lion pose.)
- Chiropractic and acupuncture treatments may also be helpful.
- There are oral mouth devices (that help keep the airway open) on the market that may help to reduce snoring in three different ways.
- Bring the jaw forward.
- Elevate the soft palate.
- Hold the tongue so it can’t fall back in the airway and block breathing.
- Use a good antioxidant formula that contains bio-available SOD to minimize the damage caused by apnea.
Note: Central apnea is a rare type of sleep apnea that happens when the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn’t send the correct signals to the breathing muscles. Then there is no effort to breathe at all for brief periods. Snoring does not typically occur in central apnea. Treatment of central apnea involves identifying and treating the underlying cause. If there is actual neurological damage resulting from things such as polio or encephalitis, for example, you may have to use medications to stimulate breathing.