Snoring: When Rolling Over Isn't Enough
45% of all people snore some and 25% snore regularly. The majority of those snoring are men, but plenty of women snore, too. Snoring can interrupt your sleep and, as you are likely aware, can disturb your partner’s peaceful night of sleep, as well.
Unfortunately, many choose to leave their snoring untreated. But snoring can be more than a mere annoyance—it can be a sign of a bigger problem.
Snoring can be a sign that you have sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night. Some signs of sleep apnea include weight gain, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, and—you guessed it—loud snoring. As with snoring, sleep apnea occurs more frequently in men than in women. There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form and occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax, causing your airway to narrow or close as you breathe in. This can lead to lower oxygen levels in your blood. In addition, your brain senses your inability to breathe and briefly wakes you so that you can reopen your airway. It happens so quickly that you are unlikely to remember it. But it can happen so often that you are never able to enter a deep and restorative sleep state.
Less Common Types of Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is also referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea are present. As with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, these types of sleep apnea prevent you from reaching a deep level of sleep, so you wake up tired even after getting what you thought was a full night of rest.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
If you suspect you or your partner may be experiencing sleep apnea, based on the symptoms mentioned above, you should talk with your doctor. He or she can diagnose the problem, usually after a sleep study. You might be referred to a sleep center where you will be monitored overnight. However, you can test yourself at your own home with devices that measure your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns.
Regardless of the method, it's critical that you diagnose and treat your sleep apnea, as it can lead to issues more serious than tiredness. Sleep apnea has been shown to increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease, to name just a few complications.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
Many of the things you can do to combat both snoring and sleep apnea involve lifestyle changes. The importance of exercising and dieting in order to lose weight cannot be overstated. It’s no coincidence that snoring and sleep apnea are more prevalent in males, as a greater percentage of men are considered overweight.
In addition to better sleep, losing weight can lead to many positive health outcomes, including lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. It’s also important that you avoid alcohol close to bedtime, as it can relax the muscles that contribute to snoring and sleep apnea.
Your Doctor May Recommend a CPAP Machine
If it is determined that you have sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a device called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help eliminate snoring and prevent sleep apnea. A CPAP machine delivers air pressure to a mask to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing snoring and sleep apnea.
Our respiratory department carries both ResMed and Philips Respironics PAP devices, as well as supplies and accessories from many manufacturers.
We're Here to Help
We are proud to be your independent community pharmacy, and we are always here. If you have sleep apnea, we can help make sure you are fitted for your CPAP machine properly—we even have a video tutorial with tips for your sleep mask. So, please don’t hesitate to talk with our pharmacists about your CPAP machine or any other sleep-related issues you might be having.