There is never anything more exhausting than waking up with a headache, feeling like you've never slept. If this is happening to you, you may need to speak to a doctor about sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder whereby your breathing stops on and off through the night. Snoring loudly and feeling unusually tired after a night of sleep can both be factors that can tell you that you may have sleep apnea. There are three main types of sleep apnea, and these are:
Central sleep apnea
This happens when your brain forgets to send the right signals to the muscles that are in charge of your breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea
You'll find this disorder when the throat muscles relax too much, obstructing the airway. An ENT doctor can help to diagnose this for you.
Complex sleep apnea
This particular sleep apnea requires treatment quickly, as it means you have both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea at the same time.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Often, the signs of the different sleep apneas overlap, which is why an ENT doctor can help to diagnose you with the right one so that you get the treatment that you need. There are some common sleep apnea signs, which include:
- Gasping during sleep
- Loud snoring
- Being told your breathing pauses in sleep
- Dry mouth in the morning
- Headaches upon waking
- Irritability due to lack of sleep
What to do about it
If you have recognized that you have sleep apnea, you need to speak to an ENT doctor. They will be able to formally diagnose you with the right sleep apnea type, ensuring that you get the proper treatment. If your diagnosis is obstructive sleep apnea, then there is every chance that you will be given instructions to wear a CPAP machine overnight. These can be a life-saving addition to your bedroom, and they're not always the most obvious option. However, the price you pay for not wearing one when directed is your health; which makes a CPAP especially attractive.
What causes sleep apnea?
As your ENT doctor will tell you, sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. When this happens, your airway narrows too much and can close entirely as you breathe in. The muscles that relax support the tissue hanging from the soft part of your palate, the tonsils and the tongue.
How a CPAP helps
During periods of sleep apnea, your oxygen levels in your blood fall, which pushes your heart to work harder to get your body oxygenated again. When this happens, both your heart rate and your blood pressure increase, which puts an incredible strain on the heart. The long pauses in your breathing because of obstructions in your airway can put your life in jeopardy, which is why a CPAP can help. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and it fits over the nose and mouth, putting pressure on the airway and stopping any obstruction from occurring in the first place.
What if I don't wear it?
Ideally, you'll take the advice of your ENT doctor on board and get hooked up to your CPAP every night as prescribed. Ignoring the advice puts your health at risk of the following conditions:
Irregular or quivering heartbeats are a common condition, but with sleep apnea alongside it, this could lead to sudden death.
If your heart is unable to pump oxygenated blood in your system, you could develop congestive heart failure. With the fluid buildup that accompanies this, it can be harder to breathe.
Wearing your CPAP will ensure that your airway remains open and you can continue to breathe easily while you're asleep. This has an effect on your blood remaining oxygenated, keeping your carbon dioxide levels low and regular. There won't be any more morning headaches related to lack of oxygen. You won't have to worry about being a risk while driving due to exhaustion, and your heart will thank you for it. A CPAP may not be the prettiest machine to have in the bedroom, but it has the potential to save your life and put you at a lower risk for other conditions.
The first step is to speak to a reputable ENT Consultant Surgeon.