H&W: The Facts About Sleep Apnea

Sleep is supposed to be a rejuvenating experience. But this isn’t so if you have sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing over and over during sleep.

The majority of people with sleep apnea don’t even realize they have it. But if you suffer from this disorder, you may have been told that you snore loudly and gasp for air when sleeping. And you may be extremely sleepy during the day and have trouble concentrating.

The importance of seeing a doctor when you suspect sleep apnea goes beyond a good night’s sleep. Research now shows that sleep apnea significantly raises your risk of high blood pressure.

Apnea’s Effects on Heart Health

One large study found that sleep apnea as much as tripled some people’s risk of developing high blood pressure. Moreover, people with sleep apnea may stop breathing as often as 30 or more times every hour. Each breathing pause can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute.

This causes your blood pressure to rise significantly during the night. And every time you stop breathing, your blood is robbed of needed oxygen. Over time, researchers think that sleep apnea may damage blood vessel walls, which can lead to hypertension and other heart problems.

Self-Care and Treatment Options

Men are more likely than women to have sleep apnea. The disorder also is more common in people age 40 and older. Other risk factors include the following:

  • Excess weight
  • A receding chin
  • A thick neck, narrow windpipe, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, or excess tissue in the throat
  • Alcohol consumption

Mild sleep apnea may respond to self-care strategies. Try the following measures:

  • Avoid alcohol and never take sedatives or sleeping pills. These can keep you from waking up enough to breathe.
  • Lose some weight, if you need to.
  • Try not to sleep on your back.

People with moderate or severe sleep apnea may need medical treatment. If you suspect that sleep apnea is the cause of your sleeplessness, consult your doctor to see which treatment options are right for you.


Source: Krames Staywell