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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about sleep apnea

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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 apnea 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 with a doctor about their condition and whether it would require surgery in the first place

Q: What is the cause of sleep apnea?

A: There are many causes of sleep apnea, and these vary depending on the type of apnea that you have: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

Instances when your breathing stops as you sleep

Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat

Waking up frequently to urinate

Morning headaches

Insomnia

Hypersomnia (extreme daytime sleepiness)

Irritability or depression

Mood swings or personality changes

Memory or learning problems

Attention problems 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 can eventually 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 it looks 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

Each of these conditions illustrate some of the effects that a sleep disorder may have that could interfere with your “functionality” and productivity, and ability to hold a job.7 The SSA has a set of guidelines that’ll help them determine if your condition warrants being considered for disability. They use a five-question process that focuses on:

  • Whether you are still working
  • How serious your condition is
  • Whether your condition is listed under the disabling conditions
  • Whether you are able to perform the work you used to do
  • 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. The administration also may consider coexisting conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, major mental deterioration and heart failure in determining your eligibiity.

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 test to determine if you have sleep apnea.9,10

However, there is a simple way to check if you’re breathing properly, since improper breathing may indicate the presence of a disorder like sleep apnea. Stand with your back against a wall, with your heels, buttocks, shoulder blades and head touching the wall. Say "Hello," swallow and then breathe.

Doing these activities easily and comfortably in this position means that your mouth and throat are clear. If you can’t do this comfortably, it may mean that your breathing is obstructed and can be worsened when you lie down to sleep — and that you should consult a doctor for help.

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.11

Wearing mouthpieces or guards may also be helpful, especially if the apnea is related to tongue or jaw position.12 Using foam wedge pillows instead of soft pillows can also address this condition.13

There are surgical procedures for sleep apnea, but these should only be done as a last resort. You should talk with your doctor about your condition and whether it requires surgery in the first place. If it turns out you do need a procedure, follow-up checkups with your doctor or sleep physician are a must.14

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

A:. The book, “Essential Oils for Healing,” recommends herbal oils like lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, frankincense, wild orange, thyme, lavender, ylang-ylang and sandalwood to help ease sleep apnea by opening your airways and allowing you to breathe more easily.15

Foods like raw organic honey, deskinned raw almonds, garlic, cinnamon and warm turmeric milk contain nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties that may assist with easing breathing and promote relaxation and sleep.16

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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