Many doctors who treat patients with high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and heart disease fail to make the connection to sleep issues. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and even chronic snoring problems can lead to all of those health problems, and ignoring the sleep connection only makes treating the medical conditions harder. Plus, being obese can also lead to sleep problems, which in turn triggers other health issues.
But many patients who are diagnosed with sleep apnea don’t like the “cure,” which is to wear a Darth Vader-like mask while sleeping. The CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) device consists of a mask and a machine that forces air down one’s nose and/or throat, both connected by a hose. It can be cumbersome and uncomfortable, forcing many people to forego what is generally considered the industry’s leading apnea treatment.
What is sleep apnea and what causes it? Sleep apnea is characterized by interrupted breathing, or cessations of breathing that occur throughout the night, perhaps hundreds of times. It is often associated with obesity, which adds fat to one’s airway causing collapse during sleep, and also with muscle weakness in the throat.
Generally, bed partners who notice loud snoring or breathing problems during sleep will (naturally) point it out to the sufferer. Snoring in and of itself is not a sure sign of sleep apnea, but snoring itself can be a big problem, and those with sleep apnea will definitely snore through the night. Other signs of sleep apnea include:
- Not being rested after sleeping and/or needing frequent naps
- Having hard-to-treat high blood pressure
- Being obese, often with a large belly (a good indication is a neck collar size bigger than 16 for women and 17 for men)
If you don’t want to go Darth Vader-like, or just can’t stomach wearing a mask at night, there are options. The Pillar Procedure, for one, relies on small implants inserted into the soft palate that cause the throat passage to harden and thus not collapse or vibrate while sleeping. Palate Coblation uses radio frequencies to harden the palate in a similar fashion to reduce the flab and the collapse reaction. If your problems with snoring or apnea stem from the nasal passage, then Turbinate Coblation to increase the airflow can help.
The main thing, though, is not to let sleep problems ruin your daytimes. If you’re consistently tired in the daytime, then it’s time to seek professional evaluation and help. Don’t think being tired is normal. Sleep should leave you refreshed for the daytime, and if it doesn’t, it’s time to take action.