Sleep apnea can be deadly if you don't have enough knowledge about it. Guest contributor Diana shares some important pointers on how to live with this potentially hazardous condition. Thanks Diana!
Sleep apnea can be a very dangerous disease. There are two types of apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form that occurs when throat muscles relax. Also Central Sleep Apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. There are many symptoms to look for. Here are just a few: loud snoring, waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches and attention problems. If you think you may have sleep apnea, please get it treated. Once treated, you will be given a CPAP machine.
1. Listen to Your Doctor
It has been two years since I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I was seeing a Physiatrist for my back pain. My entire body ached and I was falling asleep at work. I thought I was not sleeping due to the pain in my back. This had been going on for two years. He wanted me to do a sleep study. I really did not want to go to a sleep Doctor. I tried some special «sleepy tea» and going to bed at the same time every night. I also made sure I did not take a nap, thinking I would be so tired I would fall asleep. It did not make a difference at all. I made an appointment and went. The first time you go to the sleep Doctor they hook you all up with a lot of wires and belts. There is a nurse in a room next to yours and she watches what happens on the computer. They called me after the first test and told me that I had stopped breathing 96 times in a five hour period. I finally listened to my Doctor then!
2. CPAP & Masks
You go for one more appointment and you sleep with the CPAP and mask. The machine pushes out air into the mask. It goes down your throat as you breathe and helps you to keep breathing. CPAP means Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. I did not stop breathing at all that time. There are many types of masks. They have some with nasal pillows that fit into your nostrils. They have the type that covers your nose only and ones that cover your nose and your mouth. If you are a mouth breather you will want the latter. Then you have headgear that keeps them on. Some of them are comfortable and some are not. My biggest struggle has been with the masks. I have gone through 5 different types in two years. They were not comfortable, they leaked air and they hurt my nose. I would get so frustrated with them that I would take them off in the middle of the night and throw them across the room.
3. Don’t Think That You Can Go without It
I have learned that if I want to sleep, I need the CPAP. My aches and pains are much better. My head is clearer and I do not fall asleep during the day at all. There are permanent side effects of not using it. One is arrhythmia and the other is congestive heart failure.
4. Lose Weight
Most people that have sleep apnea are overweight. You lay down and your extra fat causes your throat to close up. Not completely, just enough so you don’t get enough air in. This causes snoring and you wake yourself up due to that. Sleep apnea is more common among people with thick or large necks. It is also more common among people who have smaller airways in their noses, throats, or mouths. The small airway could be related to the actual size and shape of the airway. Even a 10% weight loss can reduce the number of sleep apnea events for most people.
Even a short walk every day is helpful. It stimulates various brain chemicals. It also makes you tired, so when you do go to bed, you fall asleep faster. It also gives you more energy and can help you lose weight.
6. Get out of Bed
Don’t lie in bed if you wake up. Get up, do something quiet. Don’t do anything stimulating, otherwise you will never get to sleep. Once you feel tired, go back to bed.
7. Take Medication
Your doctor can recommend a medicine that can help you sleep. Some people need it to relax. It also helps some to fall asleep faster so they are not so aware of the CPAP machine and mask being on.
I still hate wearing my CPAP mask and using the machine. But I do! The long and the short of it is that it is necessary. Unless you want to have your loved ones worry every night that you will stop breathing. And that breath may be your last.