Have you been told you hold your breath while you sleep? This is indicative of sleep apnea. While many sleepers naturally hold their breath during sleep from time to time, an issue that persists and happens frequently throughout the night needs further investigation to determine if sleep apnea is the cause. There are health risks associated with a poor night’s sleep, such as general tiredness affecting performance at work and other risky situations, such as driving. So, what are the treatment options for this condition? Let’s find out.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is diagnosed during a sleep study. It is characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. Each “pause” during sleep is known as an apnea and these occur on several different occasions throughout the night. Some sufferers may only have a few instances of apnea per night, but these instances can become very frequent throughout the night and sometimes sleep apnea sufferers can hold their breath over 30 times per hour. Sometimes, these events can last for a few seconds, but might last for one or two minutes, too.
There are three forms of sleep apnea. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which makes up 84% of diagnosed cases. Central sleep apnea affects 0.4% of sufferers, making it the least prevalent form, but can be present in mixed sleep apnea that affects just over 15% of sufferers. Obstructive sleep apnea is a result of a blockage in the airways while central sleep apnea occurs when the respiratory muscles fail to work during sleep. Regardless of the form, sufferers are rarely aware that they have issues with breathing, even when they wake up. They’re also able to be treated similarly, too.
When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to increases in risks for other severe health complications, which include heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and GERD.
How Does It Affect Sufferers?
Sleep apnea is more prevalent in adults, but can be seen in children as well. The majority of sufferers report daytime sleepiness throughout the day, which impairs their levels of alertness. The effects of this include a reduced reaction time, daytime fatigue, and distorted vision.
Under medical examination, it has been noted that the parts of the brain which control memory and speech functioning are impaired during an apnea. Over time, it is thought that sufferers of sleep apnea will experience chronic issues related to their memory and speech.
How Is It Treated?
Sleep apnea treatment begins with overall lifestyle changes. Smoking and alcohol consumption generally increase the severity of apnea instances, so must be eliminated to begin controlling the amount of times the sleeper goes into apnea per night. Treatment is then followed by MRS.
MRS is an acronym for Mandibular Responding Splint. This is a device that is worn similarly to a dental retainer and allows the jaw to rest in a more “open” position. This helps alleviate the muscular constriction or blockage that usually result in the sleeper holding his breath while resting. It is usually the preferred treatment for those with obstructive sleep apnea, but further intervention may be required for those with central or mixed sleep apnea.
Is Surgery An Option?
Yes, there are surgical procedures that can correct sleep apnea. However, they’re mostly related to physical abnormalities, which create conditions that favor sleep apnea. These include a deviated nasal septum where the tissue that divides the nostrils is bent towards one side, enlarged tonsils, and a small lower jaw that creates an overbite. Each of these conditions can be corrected through surgery, but often come with complications that make the procedures not worthwhile. Sometimes, scar tissue develops at the site of surgeries, which can further restrict the airway and overrule what a surgeon attempted to do in the first place! Besides the cost of surgery, the risks associated with them often keep patients off of an operating table.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Besides making changes to your lifestyle, there are MRS treatments available that do not require a prescription or intervention of a doctor. While the market is flooded with options that may not live up to their claims, ZQuiet is a device that is receives considerable praise for its ability to treat snoring.
ZQuiet contours to the mouth of the wearer, which makes it suitable for the majority of users. It also works with the same principles as other MRS devices. It holds the jaw in a more “open” position, so that blockages won’t prove themselves to be problematic and there is more air being made available to the sleeper. In turn, this will help encourage deeper breaths and ensure the sleeper remains oxygenated while resting. Refer to our review on Zquiet for further information.