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Can Sleep Apnea Get Worse Over Time

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Sleep Apnoea Can Cause Other Problems

Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease

Without treatment, sleep apnoea can lead to:

  • a higher chance of having a stroke
  • depression or changes in your mood
  • a higher chance of having a serious accident caused by tiredness, such as a car accident
  • difficulty concentrating at work or school

Sleep apnoea can also be difficult for your partner and put a strain on your relationship with them.

A Nightly Struggle: Sleep Apnea Symptoms

If you have sleep apnea, your breathing can be affected for 10 to 30 seconds during each apnea. This can happen up to 400 times in one night.

For those who chronically suffer from sleep apnea, each morning/day youll experience symptoms from the above list. The best way to figure out how often your sleep apnea is impacting you, though, is by relying on a partner. If they arent already, ask your partner to inform you of these sleep disturbances.

Despite the severity of your sleep apnea on any given night, receiving treatment prevents future health complications. Leaving your sleeping disorder untreated can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and more.

The most common sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Morning headaches and sore throats
  • Fatigue during the day

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Is A Symptom Not A Condition

Excessive daytime sleepiness isnt a disorder but a symptom of a larger condition thats interfering with your sleep. According to the NSF, the most common causes are:

If you have excessive daytime sleepiness, its important to find the root cause. The condition can have a negative impact on every aspect of your life, including work, relationships, and day-to-day activities.

Being constantly tired can mean that youre more likely to make mistakes or be less productive, and it can impair your ability to enjoy or fully take part in the things you normally like to do, according to the NSF. Chronic poor sleep has also been linked to a litany of serious health issues, including cardiovascular problems and weight gain, as well as safety risks from drowsy driving.

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What Is Sleep Apnea

If youre unsure if you have sleep apnea, its important to know what it is and seek diagnosis and treatment. If youre in Tennessee, we offer complimentary consultation and evaluation for in-home testing.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by breathing cessation or an obstructed airway during sleep. The most recognized symptoms include loud snoring, gasping, or choking during sleep, as well as daytime sleepiness the following day even if you think you got a full nights rest.

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: The most common form of sleep apnea, where your airways become partially or fully obstructed.
  • Central sleep apnea: When your brain doesnt properly signal the muscles that control your breathing, causing breathing cessation.
  • Complex sleep apnea: When you have both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. This is the least common form of sleep apnea.

Does Sleep Apnea Reduce Life Expectancy What We Know And 10 Things You Can Do

What Makes Snoring Or Sleep Apnea Worse Over Time?

If youre curious whether sleep apnea can affect life expectancy, it can increase your risk for life threatening health complications and increase your chances for an early death.

Studies have found that sleep apnea patients have 3 times the risk of dying and it can increase the risk of heart attack or dying by 30 percent over a period of four to five years.

The good news is theres plenty you can do for sleep apnea including sleep hygiene, life style changes, weight loss, exercise, and treatment.

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Things That Make Sleep Apnea Worse

Obstructive sleep apnea affects millions of adults in the United States, with the majority of those affected suffering through the disorder while undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder characterized by interrupted breathing due to an obstruction in the airways, like enlarged tonsils or tensed throat muscles, and this repeated interruption of breathing can lead to other serious health problems.

Reducing Stress During A Pandemic To Ensure A Good Nights Sleep

Without certainty as to when the pandemic will be over, its imperative to reduce stress to improve your sleep apnea. Heres how:

Identify Stressors

The first step should be to identify what is causing you stress, and from there, you can take steps to reduce it.

Do Not Be Afraid to Say No

Perhaps your stress stems from your inability to say no. For your well-being, its essential to learn to say no, especially when youre overwhelmed. Dont say yes to things even if it seems like you should. Learn to take time for yourself.

Get Support

Close family and friends can offer support that will go a long way in reducing your stress levels. If youre feeling overwhelmed, consider talking to a therapist about the stress you are experiencing. Not only are they are a great resource, but they can provide you with exercises to help you feel less stressed out and other resources.

Exercise Moderately and Routinely

Frequently exercising loosens tight muscles and at the same time induces the release of endorphins, which are mood-boosting hormones, leading to lower stress levels. If you dont love working out, even a brisk walk around the block is a great place to start when youre feeling overwhelmed by the world around you.

Iron Out Personal Conflicts

As much as quarantine has enabled people to spend more time together, it has also put a strain on so many relationships. Learning how to resolve conflicts as they arise amicably is crucial.

Control Your Workload

See a Sleep Apnea Specialist

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Getting Tested For Sleep Apnoea

If a GP thinks you might have sleep apnoea, they may refer you to a specialist sleep clinic for tests.

At the clinic, you may be given devices that check things like your breathing and heartbeat while you sleep.

You’ll be asked to wear these overnight so doctors can check for signs of sleep apnoea.

You can usually do this at home, but sometimes you may need to stay in the clinic overnight.

The test can show if you have sleep apnoea and how severe it is. This is based on how often your breathing stops while you sleep .

Your AHI score shows how severe your sleep apnoea is:

  • AHI of 5 to 14 mild
  • AHI of 15 to 30 moderate
  • AHI over 30 severe

Does Sleep Apnea Qualify As A Disability

Study finds maintaining an active lifestyle can reduce obstructive sleep apnea risk

According to the Nolo legal network, the Social Security Administration doesnt have a disability listing for sleep apnea. It does, however, have listings for breathing disorders, heart problems, and mental deficits that might be attributed to sleep apnea.

If you dont qualify for the conditions listed, you may still be able to receive benefits through a Residual Functional Capacity form. Both your doctor and a claims examiner from Disability Determination Services will fill out an RFC form to determine whether youre able to work due to:

  • your sleep apnea

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Why Sleep Apnea Is Worse During Winter

It comes as no surprise to anyone that winter brings some of the coldest months of the year. These frigid temperatures can impact your sleep apnea if not appropriately treated. When suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, your airways constrict and collapse due to the soft tissues in your throat not being strong enough to remain in place. As a result, your body cannot get enough oxygen which leaves your body gasping for air as it tries to reopen your airway. In most cases, you wont even notice that youre choking or snoring throughout the night when these breathing cessations occur, but they will leave you feeling unrested even after a full nights sleep.

Here are a few ways that the winter months can aggravate your sleep apnea symptoms:

While the winter temperatures might lead you to get a cold that worsens your sleep apnea symptoms, its a two-way street. When you arent getting enough sleep each night, the risk of catching a cold increases significantly. Thats why you need to treat your sleep apnea with AutoPAP therapy to ensure youre getting enough sleep and limiting your chances of getting sick this winter.

Many Solutions Are Available

Sleep apnea is very treatable, says Dr. Foldvary especially at centers that provide excellent patient education and a broad range of treatments.

The gold standard treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure . But its not one size fits all, she says.

There are multiple forms of PAP therapy and a wide range of masks. Patients with difficulty tolerating the constant flow of air pressure often prefer auto- or bi-level PAP therapy, and need help with mask options, says Dr. Foldvary.

When apnea is mild, options include a body pillow or positional device that helps promote sleeping on the side, and oral appliances that advance the lower jaw forward.

Some people require surgery to remove tonsils or other tissues that block the airway.

Finally, a limited number of people will benefit from a revolutionary new treatment called hypoglossal nerve stimulation, she says.

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Sleep Apnea May Not Always Occur Every Single Night And In Fact May Be Sporadic In Some Cases

This can be referred to as intermittent sleep apnea, in which the intermittency is measured in days or weeks rather than hours in a single night.

There is night to night variability, positional variability and sleep stage variability of apnea, says Dr. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, DO, MS, and Director, Sleep Disorders Center, Cleveland Clinic.

In order for sleep apnea to be sporadic or periodic, the circumstance that leads to it needs to be sporadic or periodic.

So for example, suppose a persons obesity is the prime driver of apneic episodes every night.

The obesity is always there, every single minute of every night. Hence, if untreated, they experience sleep apnea every night, with likely no hour of absent apnea.

Shutterstock/Motortion Films

On the other hand, when obesity isnt a factor, there can be variables that cause obstructive sleep apnea to occur periodically rather than nightly.

Alcohol can worsen apnea too and cause night to night variability, says Dr. Foldvary.

Drinking relaxes the throat structures, making them more susceptible to collapsing during slumber.

She adds that an upper airway infection, as well, can cause variability.

Lying on ones back during sleep , especially if the head is minimally elevated, may for some individuals be a contributing factor to the intermittency, especially when other variables are present such as alcohol consumption.

Positional variability refers to sleep position.

Should You Use A Cpap Machine If You Have Mild Sleep Apnea

Why sleep apnea can set you up for a severe COVID

If you suspect you have mild OSA, you should talk to your doctor right away to explore options. Sleep deprivation is notorious for causing poor decision-making, but seeking support when you are chronically tired is a smart move. If sleep apnea is found to be the fault, your doctor will recommend one of the following options.

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What About Mild Sleep Apnea

There have not always been consistent outcomes data or consensus about treatment recommendations for people with mild sleep apnea. Nonetheless, there are several studies that have demonstrated quality of life benefits in treating mild OSA, including a recent study published in The Lancet, where researchers from 11 centers throughout the United Kingdom recruited and randomized 301 patients with mild OSA to receive CPAP plus standard of care vs. standard of care alone, and followed them over three months. The results found that in patients with mild OSA, treatment with CPAP improved their quality of life, based on a validated questionnaire.

This study supports a comprehensive approach to evaluation and treatment of mild OSA. While all people with mild OSA may not need to be treated with CPAP, there are patients who can greatly benefit from it.

What Are The Treatments For Sleep Apnea

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, you should make sure to talk with a doctor. Without understanding the root causes of your sleep apnea, it is difficult to treat. When necessary, the doctor can recommend an overnight sleep study to analyze your sleep, including your breathing.

If a person is diagnosed with OSA or CSA, treatment is often effective at improving sleep and reducing the risks of long-term health complications. A doctor familiar with a patients situation is in the best position to address potential benefits and risks of treatments and make specific recommendations.

Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, reducing use of sedatives, and sleeping on your side, can resolve some cases of OSA. Another common treatment is nightly use of a continuous positive airway pressure or bi-level positive airway pressure machine. These devices push air through a mask and into the airway to keep it open during sleep.

Some types of mouthpieces that hold the jaw or tongue in a specific position are an option for people with certain anatomical features that trigger mild OSA. In addition, though usually not the first treatment option, surgery to remove tissue and expand the airway can be considered. Medications may be prescribed to help with daytime sleepiness in people with this symptom.

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Factors That Can Make Sleep Apnea Worse

If you have sleep apnea, its important to get it treated right away. However, even with treatment, its possible to make your symptoms worse if youre not careful. Consider the following eight lifestyle factors that can make sleep apnea worse, and get started on treating them today for both healthy sleep and your overall health.

Deep Sleep And Sleep Deprivation

Experts On Sleep Apnea Say Special Mouthguards Can Replace CPAP Machines

When you are sleep deprived, your body tends to make up for it with REM sleep, otherwise known as deep sleep wherein rapid eye movement and paralysis of the muscles occur. REM sleep paralyzes the airways and causes drops in oxygen during sleep, often causing gasping or pauses in breathing during the night.

REM sleep cannot be avoided since its an important part of quality sleep, but its recommended that you dont deprive yourself of sleep too much. A good sleep cycle can help ensure that your body will not sleep so deeply to the point that you are already experiencing sleep apnea.

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How Do You Sleep

Your sleep apnea can become worse because of yoursleeping position. For those with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, your sleeping position can make it difficult to get a good night of sleep in certain positions since it affects the way you breathe. For instance, sleeping on your back can make your sleep apnea worse.

This position makes your jaw and tongue drop back towards your throat. It leads to narrowing of your airways and makes it difficult to breathe. To compact this, try sleeping on your side.

Sleeping on your side allows gravity to work with you and not against you as back sleeping would. However, try out different sleeping positions to see which one works best for you.

Do You Or A Loved One Suffer From Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a common and serious medical condition that causes a multitude of negative health problems and drastically decreases the quality of life. This disorder causes you to stop breathing during sleep and limits the amount of oxygen that reaches your lungs. It also inhibits your bodys ability to get into the most important REM and deep stages of sleep that allows your mind and body to repair itself. Many people try to adapt and deal with the consequences of their untreated sleep apneas, while 80-90% of patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea remain undiagnosed. Sleep apnea doesnt improve itself without treatment. In fact, sleep apnea is a progressive disease that gets worse over time if the root cause of the sleep apnea isnt addressed.

Some of the common signs of sleep apnea are snoring and choking noises while youre trying to sleep, although just because you dont have these symptoms doesnt mean you dont have sleep apnea.

Traditionally, the only non-surgical options to treating sleep apnea were CPAP and Oral Appliances that just hold your airway open at night. Both tend to have just a band-aid effect as the condition still gets worse over time. At the Breathing and Sleep Center, we have better options that can permanently grow your airway which improves sleep apnea and your ability to breathe, not just at night, but all day for the rest of your life.

Contact us to learn more or register here for our next educational seminar.

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What Are The Health Risks Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can lead to sleep deprivation from constant nightly interruptions and shallower overall sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with far-reaching health consequences that affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally, and as a result, it comes as no surprise that sleep apnea has been tied to diverse health problems.

Because of how it affects oxygen balance in the body, untreated sleep apnea raises dangers for various types of cardiovascular issues including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.

Sleep Study: Lab More Accurate Than Home

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

A sleep study in a lab and follow-up with a sleep medicine physician will determine what the triggers for the apnea are, and if indeed sleeping on ones side is effective without CPAP or oral appliance treatment.

Sleep study

The caveat is that sleeping on ones side for an entire night is difficult due to either eventual discomfort or reverting to a supine position without being aware.

Pillows can be arranged on the bed to prevent subconsciously rolling over to ones back.

Sporadic sleep apnea is not necessarily asymptomatic.

Again, you should have a sleep study and thorough consultation with a physician whose specialties include sleep disordered breathing.

Certified by the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine, Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer has treated patients with sleep disorders and epilepsy at Cleveland Clinic since 1995. She has served as a lead investigator on numerous clinical trials.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. Shes also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.

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