Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Sleep Apnea

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Apnea

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  • Snoring is a primary indicator of sleep apnea. There are many causes of sleep apnea, and these vary depending on the type of sleep apnea that a person has
  • Poor nutrition beginning from early childhood, lack of breastfeeding, excessive intake of processed foods, tongue placement and low vitamin D levels have also been linked to sleep apnea
  • There are surgical procedures for sleep apnea, but these should only be done as a last resort. Patients must talk to a doctor about their condition and whether it would require surgery

Q: What is the cause of sleep apnea?

A: There are many causes of sleep apnea, and these vary depending on the type of sleep apnea that a person has:1,2,3

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS): This occurs because of a naturally narrowed air passage, loose fatty tissues of the throat collapsing back into the airway or improper tongue position (falling back) during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This type of sleep apnea develops during sleep because of a mechanical problem. The muscles in the throat relax too much to promote normal breathing. The patient’s tongue falls back against the soft palate, and the soft palate and the uvula fall against the back of the throat. The airway is then closed and narrowed.

Central sleep apnea (CSA): The inability of the brain to send proper signals to muscles responsible for controlling breathing triggers CSA. However, CSA may also develop due to conditions affecting the ability of the brainstem to control breathing.

Poor nutrition beginning from early childhood, lack of breastfeeding, excessive intake of processed foods, tongue placement and low vitamin D levels have also been linked to sleep apnea.

Q: What are the usual signs of sleep apnea?

A: Snoring is a primary indicator of sleep apnea. Other symptoms people normally develop include:4,5

Episodes of breathing stoppage during sleep

Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat

Waking up frequently to urinate

Morning headaches

Insomnia

Hypersomnia (extreme daytime sleepiness)

Feelings of irritability or depression

Mood swings or personality changes

Memory or learning problems

Attention problems and/or failure to concentrate

Grinding and clenching of teeth


Q: Can sleep apnea cause high blood pressure levels?

A: Yes, it can. Sleep apnea can lead to sleep deprivation, which eventually can impair your body’s response to insulin or insulin resistance. This is a known precursor to Type 2 diabetes, and failure to control insulin levels can increase your risk for high blood pressure levels, heart disease and other devastating diseases.

Q: Can you get disability benefits because of sleep apnea?

A: Sleep apnea, no matter how serious it may be, doesn’t automatically make a person eligible for claiming benefits. However, there may be exceptions. What the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) does is look for areas where you have “limitations” that are either mental (such as severe personality changes, memory problems, delusions or hallucinations, IQ loss of more than 15 points or emotional instability) or physical (cor pulmonale or enlarged right heart ventricle).6

Some of the effects of this sleep disorder can interfere with your “functionality” and productivity, which can make you ineligible to continue with your chosen profession.7

The SSA has a set of guidelines that’ll help them determine if you need to be considered for disability. They use a guide called the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process involving five questions that focus on:

1. Whether you are still working

2. How serious is your condition

3. Whether your condition is listed under the disabling conditions

4. Whether you are able to perform the work you used to do

5. Whether you are able to do any other kind of work

There is a chance the SSA will consider your case if sleep apnea, when considered in totality (combined with serious health consequences), impairs your ability to be employed. Patients with complications are said to be more likely to qualify for disability benefits.

Meanwhile, other conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, major mental deterioration and heart failure, which may occur alongside sleep apnea, may convince the SSA that you may not have enough balance or residual capacity left to work anymore.

Q: Can you die from sleep apnea?

A: Yes. According to the Mayo Clinic, multiple episodes of low blood oxygen levels (hypoxia or hypoxemia) among patients with obstructive sleep apnea, alongside underlying heart disease, can lead to sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.8

Q: How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

A: Doctors can advise you to undergo a physical exam, a nocturnal polysomnography or home sleep tests to determine if you have sleep apnea.9,10

However, there is a simple way to check if a person is breathing properly or not, since improper breathing may indicate the presence of a disorder like sleep apnea. The patient should stand with his or her back against a wall, with the heels, buttocks, shoulder blades and head touching the wall. Have the patient say "Hello," swallow and then breathe.

Doing these activities easily and comfortably in this position means that the mouth and throat are clear. Failure to do so probably means that breathing is obstructed and can be worsened when you lie down to sleep.

Q: How do you cure sleep apnea?

A: Oral myofunctional therapy, a type of facial muscle therapy, can be effective for sleep apnea patients. It can help reshape the oral cavity, promote proper tongue placement and teach patients how to properly breathe through the nose, with the tongue resting against the roof of the mouth.

Dental appliances custom-made by a specially trained dentist can be worn by patients 18 years old and above with mild to moderate sleep apnea, or severe sleep apnea patients who aren’t able to tolerate a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.11

Sleeping with a wedge pillow can also provide some sort of relief against sleep apnea, since this can assist with decreasing narrowing of the throat, help maintain sleeping positions during the night and consequently reduce sleep apnea symptoms and their incidence.12

There are surgical procedures for sleep apnea, but they should be done only as a last resort. Patients should talk to a doctor about their condition to help decide whether it would require surgery. After the procedure, follow-up checkups with a doctor or sleep physician are a must.13

Q: How do you treat sleep apnea with natural remedies?

A: Essential oils such as marjoram, lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, Roman chamomile, geranium and valerian may help promote better sleep and relaxation and alleviate nasal congestions that can disrupt proper breathing.14

Foods like raw honey, deskinned raw almonds, garlic, cinnamon and warm turmeric milk contain nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties that can assist with easing breathing and promoting relaxation and sleep.15

MORE ABOUT SLEEP APNEA

Sleep Apnea: An Introduction

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep Apnea Causes

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep Apnea Testing

Sleep Apnea Surgery

Sleep Apnea Prevention

Sleep Apnea FAQ



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