What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You might have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and feel tired even after a whole night’s sleep.
The main types of sleep apnea are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form, occurs when throat muscles relax.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to breathing muscles.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Poor quality sleep – with regular periods of reduced or absent breathing often accompanied by loud snoring and/or gasping for air.
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
- Dry mouth and headaches upon waking.
- Poor concentration, poor memory and slow reaction times.
- Irritability and mood changes.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Impotence (erectile dysfunction) and reduced sex drive (libido).
- Need to get up to toilet frequently at night.
What are the signs of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea may be noticed more by the bed partner than by the sleeper. Your bed partner might see that your breathing pauses, or they may complain of your loud snoring.
That said, although annoying, snoring isn’t the same as sleep apnea. Snoring is just the vibration sound created by airway resistance. You can snore loudly and not have sleep apnea, and you may even have sleep apnea without much snoring.
People with sleep apnea might also suffer from unexplained fatigue and mood swings because their breathing interruptions continually wake them and prevent them from settling into a deep, nourishing sleep.
The consequences can be significant. People with sleep apnea could get into car accidents in the daytime, lose productivity at work, have mood swings, wake up feeling groggy and fall asleep in class.
Other sufferers might wake up with a dry mouth since sleep apnea makes you breathe with an open mouth, drying out your saliva. Some awaken with a headache, which may be caused by low oxygen or high carbon dioxide levels during sleep.
Can Sleep Apnea Be Permanently Cured?
Because obstructive sleep apnea results from anatomical characteristics, the question of a permanent cure is complicated to answer.
A CPAP machine or an oral appliance may treat ongoing sleep apnea. A CPAP is worn nightly and works by opening the airway with air pressure. CPAP is effective for treating sleep apnea, but many patients find it difficult or impossible to tolerate. Oral appliance therapy, which looks similar to a mouthguard or retainer and projects the jaw forward during sleep to open the airway, is another effective treatment generally considered more tolerable for patients. Both CPAP and oral appliances must be worn each night to achieve the desired outcomes for the patient. Yet, with consistent use, they can reduce a patient’s score on the apnea-hypopnea index (which measures the number of pauses in breathing per hour) to less than five, the number considered by doctors to mean a complete resolution of sleep apnea.
Some surgeries for sleep apnea can change a person’s anatomy, effectively curing the condition, at least in theory. However, success rates vary widely; in many cases, the condition returns, leaving patients disappointed.
Oral appliances and CPAP are the overall more reliable option, but for complicated cases, cases in which no other treatment has worked, or at the patient’s request, surgery may be the way to go.
Some surgical options for the treatment of sleep apnea include:
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) — This surgery involves removing and/or repositioning various tissues in the mouth and throat to widen the airway, such as trimming the soft palate and uvula. This is the most common surgery for sleep apnea; however, it is often combined with other surgeries, such as tonsillectomies (to remove the tonsils) and adenoidectomies (to remove the adenoids, the glands in the roof of the mouth).
- Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction — These surgeries open the nasal passage to increase airflow.
- Genioglossus Advancement — This surgery involves pulling the base of the tongue forward to make the entire tongue firmer and less likely to collapse into the airway during sleep.
Can sleep apnea Be cured by losing weight?
According to research, there seems to be a significant correlation between obesity and sleep apnea. Indeed, you may be more likely to suffer from an issue like this if you are overweight. However, not every patient who is obese will suffer from sleep apnea. Similarly, not every sleep apnea patient will be overweight. That said, if you are overweight, you should consider getting a physical examination. This will determine whether weight loss could help you. Typically, this will include measuring the circumference of the neck. Generally speaking, a circumference of 17 inches or higher in men and 16 inches in women will lead to a far greater chance of sleep apnea.
If you are overweight, it is possible that losing weight will be enough to cure the condition completely. However, this won’t always be the case because anatomical factors can come into play. For instance, a person could have a receded chin, a deviated nasal septum or prominent tonsils. All these issues may cause some level of sleep apnea and will not be corrected by significant levels of weight loss. That said, losing weight can have a variety of other benefits.
It can improve your joints, reduce issues with high blood pressure and provide a significant boost to your vitality. So, weight loss is certainly never going to be the wrong choice and definitely won’t make your sleep apnea worse. It can only make it better.
Can an adjustable bed help solve sleep apnea?
Elevating the upper body is one of the best ways to deal with sleep apnea. An adjustable bed is a perfect solution to help achieve the required elevation for coping with sleep apnea. Lying flat encourages collapsing of the airways, which happens during obstructive sleep apnea, the most common subtype of this disorder.
An adjustable bed provides the support sleep apnea patients need to remain in an upright position at night. Adjustable beds are electric beds that you can profile to different positions.
These beds use a multi-hinged structure, allowing you to move the upper and lower half of the bed independently of each other with simple remote control. Such control over the sleeping position with electric adjustable beds provides an excellent way for sleep apnea patients to alleviate the symptoms of their disorder, limit snoring, and ensure better quality sleep.
An adjustable bed can complement other sleep apnea treatments, such as CPAP machines, which are used as at-home treatments for this sleep disorder. Some patients might find that an electric adjustable bed solves most of their apnea issues, but any potential discontinuation of other sleep apnea treatments should always be discussed with your doctor. You can learn more about adjustable beds here.