Most people know that sleep apnea is a leading cause of death from heart attacks and strokes. However recent research has revealed that sleep apnea is a leading cause of death from many causes, even in people judged to be healthy.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore revealed that men aged 40 to 70 with severe sleep apnea were twice as likely to die as men in the same age group who did not suffer from the disorder. Many accidents are caused by people who fall asleep at the wheel, a common result of sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea. It's believed that over 12 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, ask for a referral to a sleep lab for tests. If the tests prove positive, the preferred method of treatment is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)machine. However, as well as the CPAP or other means of treatment prescribed by your doctor, there are several factors that make sleep apnea worse.
An article from U.S. News and world report tells us that sleep doctors list the following things that can add to the seriousness of sleep apnea.
Weight Gain - Excess weight increases flab in the throat area that can clog airways. The bad news is that sleep apnea can cause weight gain by increasing the appetite for poor food choices and hormonal changes also lead to weight gain. Also, because sleep apnea leads to sleep deprivation and inability to be as active as you once were, weight loss through exercise is less likely.
The second risk factor mentioned in the article is the use of alcohol, which, as well as causing disrupted sleep patterns, also loosens the muscles in the throat which can cause obstruction of the airways.
Medications can also create problems for the sleep apnea victim. Muscle relaxants, like alcohol, loosen muscles and bring about obstruction of the airways. Sleeping pills cause a deeper sleep, making it more difficult to awaken and resume breathing during an apnea.
Sleep apnea is worse for those who sleep on their backs. One way to facilitate sleeping on your side is to sew tennis balls or something similar into the back of your pajama top to make it difficult to lie on your back.
Another two-way street is sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea, with it's restless sleep, naturally causes loss of sleep and loss of sleep tends to worsen sleep apnea.
Smoking is just generally bad for anyone, but for those with sleep apnea with air passages already sore from snoring and gasping for air, smoking just adds another irritant to increase the poor condition of throat and mouth.
A person's own anatomy can also play a part in adding to the misery of sleep apnea. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids, deviated septum or enlarged uvula are all risks of worsening sleep apnea. It's also been noted that people with large necks, especially if they are obese, are also more likely to be at risk for sleep apnea.
If you are not sure of the sound a person sleeping with sleep apnea, the National Sleep Foundation and NPR has an excellent audio file here: Sleeping with Apnea
Published On: August 31, 2009