It has been estimated that approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, yet this condition is still widely misunderstood. Many people find themselves having sleep disruptions or feeling tired when they wake up and don’t know why. Yet this condition can actually be very dangerous and even deadly if it is not diagnosed and treated.
The purpose of this article is to provide some basic information about sleep apnea so that you can approach treatment in a safe, effective, and natural way.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common form of this disorder that happens when the muscles in the throat relax too much. Central sleep apnea involves an issue with the brain not sending the right signals to muscles that aid breathing. Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, also known as complex sleep apnea syndrome, is a condition in which a person has both of these two issues at the same time.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, is caused when the muscles of the throat relax and the airway narrows as a person inhales. This limits the amount of air intake and lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood. When this happens, the brain notices that breathing is restricted, and you wake up, often not even remembering the incident.
The cause of central sleep apnea is a disconnect in the brain that involves a failure to transmit signals to breathing-related muscles in the body. Some of the reasons it occurs are low oxygen levels, heart failure, and nervous system conditions.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Although anyone can develop sleep apnea, certain people are more prone to it than others. For example, it is most common in people over the age of 50, who are overweight, and who have heart conditions.
If you have a thicker neck, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, have nasal congestion, or have a family history of sleep apnea, you could be at a greater risk of the condition. Men are also more likely than women to have sleep apnea.
Managing Sleep Apnea Naturally
Sleep apnea can lead to many serious complications, including high blood pressure, daytime fatigue, type-2 diabetes, and liver problems. Mild sleep apnea means that a person has five to 15 episodes of the condition per hour, moderate sleep apnea means between 15 and 29 events per hour, and severe sleep apnea means waking up more than 30 times per hour. This severe form of the condition results in at least 240 episodes of stopping breathing or waking up during an eight-hour night’s sleep.
Although there is no cure for this disorder, there are various approaches to treating sleep apnea. For mild conditions, non-medical lifestyle treatments may reduce the episodes. This could involve changing sleeping positions, weight loss, and nasal sprays. Positive airway pressure (PAP) is a treatment that involves a special device that increases airway pressure during inhalations and keeps the windpipe open during sleep. You can try using a mouthpiece to hold your jaw and tongue in a position that supports good airflow or a nerve stimulator to prevent the tongue from relaxing and blocking the windpipe.
To address sleep apnea naturally, you can also try using a humidifier in the bedroom, doing yoga, quitting cigarettes and alcohol, and eating more nutritious foods to promote a healthy heart. We recommend a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, extra virgin olive oil, and grape seed extract to support heart health, along with the treatment plan that you decide on with your doctor.