Obstructive Sleep Apnea: The Not So Silent Killer
Do members of your household complain that you snore loudly?
Do you ever wake up gasping for air?
Has your significant other noticed that you stop breathing for short periods of time while sleeping?
Are you tired during the day, even when you feel like you got enough sleep?
If any of these apply to you, you may be one of the 425 million people worldwide who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA).
Because sleep apnea increases risk factors for conditions like cardiovascular disease, warning signs like the ones listed above shouldn’t be ignored. And yet, doctors estimate that 80-90% of OSA cases go undiagnosed.
What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs during sleep when the soft tissues around your airway relax, making it harder to breathe.
When oxygen levels drop low enough, your respiratory system hits the emergency switch to wake you up before you suffocate.
So why might one person suffer from sleep apnea when someone else doesn’t?
Following are some factors that can increase sleep apnea risk:
Overweight people are much more likely to suffer from OSA.
- Neck size
If you have a large neck, you might be more susceptible to OSA.
Men are more likely to have symptoms of OSA than women.
- Family history
If one of your parents have (or had) OSA, there’s a better chance you will.
The older a person it, the more likely they are to suffer from sleep apnea.
- Tobacco and alcohol use
Alcohol and tobacco can relax the tissues around your airway, thus increasing OSA risk.
Why OSA Should Be Taken Seriously
The potential health risks from OSA can be severe and life-threatening. Following are just a few of the potential dangers:
- Chronic fatigue
Sleep that is interrupted throughout the night can lead to fatigue during the day, which can negatively impact cognition, concentration, and your health overall. Daytime sleepiness can also be dangerous when driving, and it can generally make a person more accident prone.
- Cardiovascular disease
OSA has been linked to high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, heart attack, and stroke.
- Type 2 diabetes
Obstructive sleep apnea can increase the risk for developing insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Fatty liver disease
Excess fat stores within your liver can eventually lead to liver damage. While liver disease is most often associated with alcoholism and obesity, OSA can also increase risk.
- Complications during surgery
Breathing issues associated with OSA can increase the risk for having complications during surgical procedures.
What Can You Do?
If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea, lifestyle changes are often enough to manage or reduce symptoms. Try some of the following:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get enough cardiovascular exercise
- Pay attention to sleep hygiene
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco
- Try a different position while sleeping
- Have your hormones checked
Obesity and OSA go hand-in-hand. Try to stay as close to your ideal body weight as possible.
Regular cardiovascular exercise reduces OSA risk.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, keep your bedroom cool and dark, and avoid screens before bed.
As mentioned previously, these substances promote snoring and interruptions in breathing by relaxing airway muscles.
People who sleep on their backs are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Try sleeping on your side to see if it reduces or eliminates your snoring.
People with hormone deficiencies—particularly men who are testosterone deficient—are at a higher risk for developing sleep apnea. Restoring hormones to healthy levels can help to prevent or reverse apnea symptoms.
If your sleep apnea is severe, you may need a specially fitted mouthguard, a CPAP machine, or other medical device to keep your airway open while sleeping. If in doubt, talk to your primary care physician about having a sleep study done to determine your degree of OSA.
Renew Youth can help you to reduce sleep apnea symptoms with bioidentical hormone therapy, supplement recommendations, and lifestyle coaching. Ready to get started? Call us at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.