The sudden demise of popular 69-year-old Indian singer Bappi Lahiri has shook the whole nation. It's hard to gulp that the cause of death is a sleeping disorder- Obstructive Sleep Apnea!
Sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing frequently blocks and resumes while sleeping (due to airway collapsing). Individuals with sleep apnea are unable to breathe sufficient oxygen. This leads to low oxygen levels in the blood. Often when this happens, the brain senses the body's inability to breathe and causes an individual to suffocate and wake up frequently.
Several analyses have shown a relationship between sleep apnea and issues like type 2 diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and even a shortened lifespan.
Hazards of sleep apnea if not treated: What the research says
Sleep apnea causes hypoxia (a low oxygen level in the body). When this occurs, your body becomes overwhelmed and responds with a fight-or-flight response, which forces your heart to beat quicker and your arteries to contract.
Heart and vascular effects include:
- High blood pressure
- High heart rate
- Higher blood volume
- More inflammation and stress
These effects raise the threat of cardiovascular troubles.
According to a 2010 study issued in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that having sleep apnea can raise your likelihood of a stroke by 2 or 3 times.
A 2007 study from Yale School of Medicine cautions that sleep apnea can rise the probability of heart attack or death by 30 percent over a period of 4-5 years.
According to a 2013 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, individuals with sleep apnea have an elevated risk of death from corresponding cardiac complications. The study discovered that sleep apnea can increase the risk of sudden cardiac death.
This is most likely if you:
- are of 60 years of age and above
- have 20 or more apnea episodes per hour of sleep
- have a blood oxygen level of less than 78% during sleep
According to a 2011 medical review, up to 60 percent of people with heart failure have sleep apnea. Adults in the study who were also treated for sleep apnea had a better two-year survival rate than those who were not. Sleep apnea can cause or worsen heart conditions.
If sleep apnea remains untreated, the possibility of requiring additional treatment for atrial fibrillation goes up to 80 %.
Sleep apnea types
There are 3 main types of sleep apnea:
- Central sleep apnea: This type occurs when your brain doesn’t transmit the correct signals to the muscles that regulate your breathing.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This is the most common type and happens when your airway narrows and gets blocked.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome: This is a combination of central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea symptoms
- Loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing
- Snorting or gasping
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat or coughing
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- The need to sleep with your head raised
- Headaches as soon as a person wakes up
- Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
Sleep apnea leads to many health-related complications which if left untreated may lead to -
- Mental health issues
- Poor immunity
- Memory loss
- High risk of heart failure
Due to the risk factors associated, treatment becomes the most important part. Some common treatments include breathing devices, medication, and surgery. However, some lifestyle changes can help improve the quality of life along with sleep quality.
Treating Sleep Apnea with Lifestyle Modifications
Have a look at the given lifestyle modifications that will help reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
1. Watch your weight
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing sleep apnea to a great extent. It makes it difficult for a person to breathe properly as the nasal passages start narrowing which can lead to blockage in any part of the respiratory tract. Such conditions could be life threatening and so it is advisable to shed extra weight by:
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Adopting healthy eating habits
- Avoiding processed foods
- Limiting the consumption of high sugar and salt foods
- Maintaining a schedule for physical activity.
2. Be specific if you have gastric problems
One of the best ways to reduce apnea symptoms is to be specific about the food you are eating, especially if you have gastric issues such as acid reflux. It is considered best to avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and spicy foods at night as these can worsen the heartburn. Heartburn is when acid travels from your stomach up to your throat. The reflux, or acid, can go high enough that it can irritate the upper breathing passage and can make the apnea worse.
3. Do yoga to boost oxygen flow
Yoga is helpful in maintaining physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It increases your strength, flexibility and allows the body organs to work well. As yoga works on breathing patterns, practicing yoga regularly will help you to maintain good respiratory health.
4. Focus on your sleeping position
Slight changes can have a significant impact on your health.
According to research sleeping on your back or sleeping in a supine position can worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea. To improve your resting time and breathe properly while sleeping, try sleeping on the side.
Consult the doctor to discuss body positing and symptoms of sleep apnea to get better with the health condition.
5. Adopt good sleeping habits
This behavior modification might not be considered as a treatment option but surely will help one to have a good night's sleep.
A strict sleep-wake schedule is a key to better health. Follow the tips mentioned to have a sound sleep:
- Go to bed at approximately the same time each day.
- Follow the same sleep routine on weekdays and weekends.
- Avoid daytime naps if you can’t fall asleep easily at night.
- Go for digital detox and put down all electronic devices like laptops, smartphones, or tablets at least 2 or 3 hours before bed.
6. Avoid substance abuse
Quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption to reduce the complications of sleep apnea. These lifestyle changes encourage better sleep patterns and improve your overall health.
Alcohol helps in the relaxation of throat muscles that control breathing which then leads to snoring and an interrupted sleep cycle. Whereas, both smoking and alcohol also lead to inflammation in the airway passages which ultimately causes blockage in airflow. All this worsens the snoring and sleep apnea problem.
7. Make use of oral appliances
Oral appliances are used to relocate the jaw or tongue to help the airway remain open while sleeping. The common devices used are mandibular advancement devices and tongue stabilizing devices. These devices which are custom fit by a dentist, work by moving the lower jaw or tongue forward to decrease the obstruction in the back of the throat resulting in better sleep quality.
8. Take the help of a humidifier
Humidifiers are helpful in treating dryness of the throat, nose, skin, etc. It works on the principle of adding moisture to the air and reduces dryness and irritation. Making use of humidifiers often according to the difficulty makes it easy for yourself to breathe, reduce snoring, and keep the skin and hair moist.
Try natural essential oils which also have medicinal properties such as peppermint oil, lavender, or eucalyptus oil and avail the benefits.
9. Avoid specific class of medications
Be extra careful with opioids, a type of strong painkiller as it is known to slow down the breathing rate and relax breathing muscles even more.
Some other special drugs that affect sleep apnea are:
- High-dose benzodiazepines
- Muscle relaxers
- Atypical antipsychotics or other drugs that are linked to weight gain
Consult the doctor before using over-the-counter sleeping pills. It’s not that OTC sleep aids make sleep apnea worse, but no one wants to mask an underlying breathing problem.
10. Your diet matters
The diet you are taking on a regular basis can promote sound sleep. Along with when you are eating, what you are eating also makes it easier to fall asleep or stay asleep. A balanced diet that includes all essential nutrients helps manage sleep apnea symptoms.
A good health rule is to eat foods that affect your health in a better way. Include foods that maintain melatonin secretion, a hormone that gives a signal to the body that it's time to sleep. Milk, eggs, pistachios, berries, nuts are the best-known sleep aids.
When to see a doctor
You may not be aware that you have sleep apnea. Your partner or another family member may notice that you snore loudly, snort, or stop breathing during sleep or that you wake up suddenly. See a doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea.
Tell a doctor if you wake up tired or with a headache or feel depressed. Watch for symptoms like daytime fatigue, drowsiness, or falling asleep in front of the TV or at other times. Even mild sleep apnea can disrupt your sleep and lead to symptoms.
Also, get a diet consultation from our dietitians on the app and know about the list of foods you should include and foods you should omit from your diet if you have Sleep Apnea.