There are numerous ways that you may be causing the symptoms of sleep apnea to become aggravated, further adding to your risk of breathing cessation during sleep and causing an increased likeliness of the conditions that have been linked to sleep apnea. Understanding what you are doing wrong can help you make the right decisions and address some potential risk factors in the condition you are suffering from.
1. Drinking Alcohol Too Close To Bed Time
Alcohol is something that many people enjoy – and they often find themselves having a drink quite close to bedtime. Unfortunately, the alcohol can cause the muscles in the throat to relax even more than usual while the person is asleep. This, in turn, may increase the risk of the airway collapsing during sleep, leading to an obstruction in airflow and making sleep apnea worse.
2. Not Sleeping Enough
Since sleep apnea is known to be at its worst when a person is in the REM phase of sleep, it should be noted that sleep deprivation may be another way that the condition may be aggravated. When a person is sleep deprived, and they finally get some sleep, they usually enter REM sleep faster and for longer periods of time.
3. Smoking Cigarettes
The thing with smoking cigarettes is the smoke that you inhale is known to irritate your throat, your tongue, and your airways. All of this irritation can cause inflammation in the region. Smoking is not only something that can aggravate sleep apnea, but this is also a direct cause of sleep apnea.
4. Gaining Excess Weight
Obesity is another factor that is associated with an increased risk of developing sleep apnea – and for those who already suffer from the condition, gaining excess weight can also aggravate the symptoms that they are experiencing. The increase in tissue around the throat and the airways is what makes an obstruction more likely to happen.
5. The Wrong Sleeping Position
While not the most important risk factor, people with sleep apnea may benefit from certain sleeping positions, but the condition can also be made worse with some positions. When a person sleeps on their back, their sleep apnea tends to be worse. When they sleep on their side, however, then the symptoms may be alleviated to some degree.
Sleep is important, but when we are sleeping, there are many things that can happen – and sleep apnea may be one of the most important factors to be wary of. Sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing while you are asleep, often without your knowledge. While the symptoms tend to start slowly, they can become worse, adversely affect your health, and eventually even cause you to experience life-threatening complications. Understanding how you may be aggravating these symptoms can ensure you take appropriate measures to reduce the effects that sleep apnea may have on your sleep and your health.
Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition that affects around 3% to 7% of the population1. The signs of sleep apnea often start slowly, but unnoticed and untreated, the condition can lead to a number of potential complications – and even become life-threatening in some cases. The condition is known to cause people to experience sleeping difficulties and often leads to problems staying awake the next day, as daytime tiredness and fatigue is very common among those who suffer from sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition where the airways in the throat get obstructed while a person is sleeping2. When the upper airway of a person collapses, then they may experience a cessation of breathing.
The muscles located in the throat automatically relax when a person falls asleep. When this happens, some people find that their tongue plugs up their airway or their airway collapse. This is when sleep apnea occurs. Breathing can become more difficult and, in some cases, breathing may even stop – some people experience a cessation of breathing for longer than 10 seconds at a time.
The brain would sense this and become distressed, as the brain relies on a constant flow of oxygen in order to function normally. People experiencing sleep apnea may often find themselves gasping for air in the middle of the night, but there are less obvious symptoms – such as giving off a snort and then falling asleep again.
Many people with sleep apnea aren’t even aware that they are suffering from this condition. The person may experience a cessation of breathing due to an obstruction in their airflow several times each night, and never even be aware of this happening at all. This is why a partner or someone else who lives in the same house as the person with sleep apnea would often notice the signs of the condition first.
The Hazards Of Sleep Apnea
Multiple health hazards have been associated with sleep apnea. The condition is known to commonly cause interference with a person’s ability to sleep well at night. When sleep quality is adversely affected, it may cause issues with the person’s performance during the following day. Fatigue is something that is often experienced during the day by people with sleep apnea. Additionally, the person may also find that they feel tired often and their mental performance is lacking in multiple departments – memory function may not work properly, they may be unable to concentrate normally, and they may also experience “brain fog.”
These complications of sleep apnea really are nothing compared to the impact that the condition may have on your general well-being. Sleep apnea has been associated with a significantly higher risk of developing hypertension, where blood pressure levels become exceptionally high. The likeliness of developing cardiovascular diseases also increases among people with this condition. Other possible complications that have been linked to sleep apnea include3:
- Headaches when waking up
- Neurocognitive effects
- Reduces quality-of-life
- Higher chance of vehicle accidents
- Possible problems during pregnancy
1 N.M.Punjabi. The Epidemiology of Adult Obstructive Sleep Apnea. American Thoracic Society. 15 Feb 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2645248/
2 L. Spicuzza, D. Caruso, G. Di Maria. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and its management. Journal of Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease. September 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549693/
3 S.M. Harding. Complications and consequences of obstructive sleep apnea. Journal of Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. November 2000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11100957