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Can Sleep Apnea Get Worse

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Considering The Causes Of Sleep Apnea

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Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when any part of the airway from the tip of the nose to the lungs collapses during sleep and disrupts breathing. As such, it is often due to a persons underlying anatomy. A deviated nasal septum or enlarged turbinates in the nose may disrupt airflow. A floppy soft palate, big tonsils or adenoids, or a large tongue may block the passage at the throat.

The lining of the airway itself may prove to be an obstruction. Chronic snoring leads to vibration of the airway and damage. This may contribute to swelling along the passage that narrows it even further. In time, nerve receptors may become less responsive, and the muscles may not be able to keep sufficient tone to support the airway. Weight gain, especially when it leads to a large neck, may also worsen the situation.

Sleeping on your back may allow the tongue to fall back into the airway, further contributing to obstruction and sleep apnea. The use of alcohol, especially in the few hours prior to sleep, may make the airway muscles more collapsible as well. All of these various contributions must be taken into account when considering whether sleep apnea can go away.

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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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.

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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.

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Weight Gain Or Obesity

Your body weight is a major contributing factor to your sleep apnea symptoms in fact, approximately 70 percent of OSA patients are obese.

Obesity puts you at a higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea, as well as other conditions like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. This is because increased fat deposits around your neck can block your upper airway as you rest, and additional pressure on your abdomen can make it difficult to breathe at night.

Sleep apnea can also worsen weight gain because your body regulates your hormones as you sleep. One of these hormones, leptin, helps regulate your body weight as well as your breathing control as you sleep.

Leptin deficiency may actually disrupt your sleep architecture and impact your upper airway resistance if you have sleep apnea, as well as contribute to weight gain.

Animal studies have shown a strong correlation between sleep apnea and leptin deficiency, and the correlation appears in humans as well.

Thankfully, losing weight can reduce your sleep apnea severity or even significantly reduce your risk of the disorder. Even 10 to 15 percent weight loss if youre overweight or obese can reduce severity by 50 percent.

The healthiest ways to lose extra weight are through a healthy, balanced diet as well as regular moderate exercise.

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Theres More Inflammation In The Body

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Experts now view obstructive sleep apnea, the most common sleep apnea type, as a low grade chronic inflammatory disease. They have found that these patients have upper airway and systemic inflammation.

And, in studies, sleep apnea severity has been found to track with high levels of inflammation the worse the sleep apnea is the more inflammation found in the body.

Unfortunately, chronic pain triggers the body to pump out stress hormones which can put you in the fight-or-flight state and cause even more inflammation.

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What Are The Causes Of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a persons airway becomes blocked during sleep. Multiple factors have been found to increase the risk of blockage and OSA:

  • Anatomical characteristics. The size and positioning of a persons neck, jaw, tongue, tonsils, and other tissue near the back of the throat can directly affect airflow.
  • Obesity. Being overweight is a leading cause of OSA and may be an underlying risk factor in up to 60% of cases. Obesity contributes to anatomical narrowing of the airway, and research has found that a 10% increase in weight can equate to a six-fold increase in OSA risk.

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  • Sleeping on your back. This sleeping position makes it easier for tissue to collapse around the airway and cause blockages.
  • Nasal congestion. People whose ability to breathe through the nose is reduced because of congestion are more likely to experience OSA.
  • Hormone abnormalities. Hormone conditions like hypothyroidism and acromegaly may increase the risk of OSA by causing swelling of tissue near the airway and/or contributing to a persons risk of obesity.

In CSA, breathing is affected in a different way than in OSA. Instead of an obstruction causing breathing lapses, the problem arises in how the brain communicates with the muscles responsible for respiration. In particular, the brain stem fails to adequately perceive the levels of carbon dioxide in the body, leading to breathing that is slower and shallower than it should be.

How To Get Rid Of Sleep Apnea

If youve been diagnosed with sleep apnea or even suspect you may have it, you probably know that its important to have it treated before it leads to other, more serious health conditions. The good news is that most cases of sleep apnea can be easily treated. The even better news is that many cases of obstructive sleep apnea can be completely cured. If you arent sure how to get rid of sleep apnea, dont stress because we have provided information on how to cure sleep apnea, as well as sleep apnea treatments without CPAP equipment.

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Talk To Your Physician

Open communication with your doctor about your CPAP therapy experience is so important, especially when you first start out. Each individual is different, so be sure to let your doctor know how your experience is going and dont hesitate to communicate any issues or concerns you have.

Some issuesincluding mask leaks, incorrect air pressure, and mask discomfortcan have relatively simple solutions. Open communication with your physician could be the difference between feeling better sooner rather than later.

Deep Sleep And Sleep Deprivation

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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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Treatment Approaches Depend On The Severity Of Your Osa

When sleep apnea is moderate or severe, continuous positive airway pressure is considered the first-line treatment, and is the recommended treatment by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine . CPAP, by eliminating snoring, breathing disturbances, and drops in oxygen saturation, can essentially normalize breathing during sleep. However, to be most beneficial, CPAP should be worn consistently throughout sleep. Unfortunately, many studies of OSA set a relatively low bar for treatment adherence , and do not necessarily take into account treatment efficacy .

How You Can Prevent Sleep Apnea From Getting Worse

For many years, the only sleep apnea treatments were surgery or a CPAP machine. Fortunately, treatment options have changed tremendously. Now, you can halt the progression of sleep apnea with an oral appliance thats much easier to tolerate and also very effective. There are many different types of these lightweight, portable appliances, all of which open your airway at night to allow for better breathing.

An experienced sleep dentist will spend time targeting the specific cause of your sleep apnea so they can recommend the absolute best type of appliance for your needs. In moderate to severe cases, they may recommend combined therapy in which an oral appliance is used along with a CPAP machine. This makes the use of a CPAP much more comfortable and also more effective.

With the right type of therapy, you can prevent your sleep apnea from getting worse and enjoy the many benefits of deeper, more restful sleep each night.

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Can Sleep Apnea Get Any Worse

Find Out Here, And Learn About The Treatment

Theres both good news and bad news, as pertains to sleep apnea:

That there are effective and simple treatments available which can minimize the impact of sleep apnea on your quality of life, and your overall heath is the good news. That one out of every four adults in the U.S. is adversely affected by it, is the bad news!

In this blog, you will receive answers to important questions, such as whether apnea related problems can get worse over time, and just what are some of the risk factors involved. You will also find out about the two most effective treatments, and just how those treatments can be of benefit to you, as one of the many people affected by sleep apnea..

What Are Sleep Apneas Risk Factors?

It is important to note, that even though none of these listed, risk factors for sleep apnea are present in your life, it is still possible for you to be affected by this bothersome condition.

The most common factors are:

  • A deviated septum
  • Drinking or eating just prior to bedtime
  • Obesity
  • Gender and Agewomen are less likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnea than men
  • Family history

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Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by repeated episodes of partial or total upper airway obstruction that result in arousals from sleep, and changes in oxygen levels during sleep. OSA is one of the most common conditions I see as a sleep medicine specialist. This is not surprising, considering that OSA is estimated to affect about 20% of the general population, and is even more prevalent in patients who are obese, or who have heart or metabolic conditions like diabetes.

When untreated, OSA can negatively impact cardiac and metabolic health, quality of life, and result in excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, problems with thinking, and depression or anxiety. OSA impacts people of all ages, backgrounds, shapes, and sizes, and while both patients and doctors have become increasingly aware about OSA and its effects over recent years, about 80% of patients with OSA still go undiagnosed.

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What Does The Research Say About Sleep Apnea Getting Worse Over Time

Were going to focus on obstructive sleep apnea since its the most common type of sleep apnea. Its also the sleep apnea type thats been the most researched.

Obstructive sleep apnea, also known as OSA, occurs when muscles in the throat relax too much during sleep and block the airway. This interrupts your breathing and arouses you out of deep restful sleep into a lighter sleep.

Worldwide its estimated that almost a billion people have sleep apnea. In the US, over 18 million adults live with sleep apnea and it generally is seen more in older age groups.

Wow, thats a lot of people and many of them are probably wondering does sleep apnea get worse with time.

In 2014, researchers did a study which involved 1,975 male and 378 female OSA patients.

They looked for links between sleep apnea severity and a variety of other factors. What they found is that age was associated with worse symptoms for males over 40 and females 45 53 years old.

A more recent studied confirmed that age is an important risk factor for more severe sleep apnea symptoms.

In 2017, researchers analyzed the sleep study data of over 1000 patients.

They looked at the effect of age on severity of OSA and found that sleep apnea symptoms do worsen with time. Overall, OSA patients had more nightly sleep apnea events and the breathing interruptions lasted longer as they got older.

What this all says is that sleep apnea can get worse over time.

Your Pain Meds Could Be Making Your Sleep Apnea Worse

Many people suffering from long-term chronic pain use opioids which are among the most powerful prescription pain killers you can get.

Among the most commonly prescribed pain meds are:

  • codeine
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin

While opioids may seem like a godsend if youre struggling with aches and pains, they can make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get deep restful sleep.

One study found that 89 percent of patients taking opiate meds for back pain had their sleep disrupted!

Another way pain meds could make things worse is that opioids may increase your risk for sleep breathing disordered breathing which is what happens when you get sleep apnea.

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Your Sleep Apnea Doesnt Have To Get Worse Over Time

So far, weve talked about what the research says and the things that can worsen obstructive sleep apnea as time goes by.

However, the truth is that things dont have to get worse since we know so much about the age-related risk factors.

Theres lots you can do to keep your sleep apnea from worsening and wrecking your sleep:

Weight loss:

Since obesity is such an important risk factor for sleep apnea, it should be no surprise that shedding pounds can help improve symptoms. Experts say that losing 10% of your weight can lead to a 20% improvement in OSA severity.

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Avoid smoking and alcohol:

Since alcohol and smoking can irritate the airway and aggravate sleep apnea symptoms, its obvious if you can cut back on your consumptions it can help improve your sleep. Experts say that even avoiding them in evening can help.

Get more physically active:

Regular physical activity is known to promote deep restful sleep. It can also help you get down to a healthier weight.

Get treated:

Make sure youre doing everything you can to keep your sleep apnea under control.

If you havent been properly diagnosed, schedule an appointment with your doctor today. Youre not alone. 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea are undiagnosed.

If your current treatment isnt working, theyre now plenty of options to try more comfortable CPAP air pressure systems, body positioners, nerve stimulators, and surgical implants.

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The Dangers Of Untreated Sleep Apnea

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Even with healthy lifestyle changes, sleep apnea wont go away on its own. Properly treating sleep apnea is the best way to relieve your symptoms and get back to getting a restful nights sleep. Remember, left untreated sleep apnea can not only ruin your sleep quality, but it can cause or contribute to so many other health problems that can impact your quality of life and your overall health.

So if you think you may have sleep apnea or may be at risk, its vital to seek treatment. If youre still not sure if youre at risk, take our sleep apnea quiz.Itll help you make sense of your symptoms so you can discuss them with your doctor or a sleep specialist.

You dont have to live with the poor sleep and health problems caused by sleep apnea. Contact us at the Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee today to get started with a treatment that will help you get your sleep, your health, and your quality of life back.

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