Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects people of all ages and genders. According to recent studies, over 936 million people worldwide suffer from sleep apnea – with an estimated 80% of cases undiagnosed.1
If you have recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, this comprehensive guide will help you understand the condition and its treatments. After all, knowledge is power, and the more you know, the better equipped you will be to tackle this condition.
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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when your natural breathing pattern is interrupted or briefly paused while you sleep, typically for 10 seconds or more. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA).
The most common type is OSA, which occurs when the muscles that control the upper airway in your throat relax too much during sleep. If this happens, the upper airway narrows, and you may snore or breathe shallowly.
If the airway narrows further, it may become blocked and you temporarily stop breathing. In response, your body will rouse you with a cough, a choke, or a snort to restore the airway passage and resume normal breathing again. People with sleep apnea have this occur several hundred times a night, leading to poor quality sleep.
Sleep apnea is often misunderstood online so it's critical to find information from trusted sources. Find out more by visiting our sleep apnea page.
Sleep apnea can be caused by unique factors for different people. Some of the most common ones include excessive fat around the throat, alcohol or drug use, sleeping on your back, pregnancy, menopause, sleeping on medication and old age.
Unfortunately, most people don't remember waking up multiple times every hour while sleeping, making it difficult to know if you have sleep apnea. The only way to suspect sleep apnea is if your partner or friends hear you snoring excessively or choking each time you go to bed.
Daytime symptoms of sleep apnea can be easily missed as they may be mild or blamed on lifestyle habits instead. These symptoms include daytime fatigue, poor concentration and memory, low energy, waking up unrefreshed, morning headaches or negative moods.
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking, are a few things individuals with milder forms of sleep apnea can try to reduce the severity of symptoms.
If lifestyle changes fail, there are three other common treatment options for sleep apnea: CPAP therapy, oral appliance therapy, and surgery.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy is typically the most recommended treatment as it is effective and non-invasive. It works by using a device to blow pressurised air into your airways, keeping them open so you can breathe.
Oral appliance therapy involves the use of a mouthguard-like device that repositions the jaw and tongue to prevent the upper airway from narrowing or collapsing during sleep.
Surgery is another option for treating sleep apnea, but it is typically reserved for patients with severe cases who have not responded to other treatment options. Surgery may involve removing excess tissue from the throat or correcting structural abnormalities.
Tracking your sleep is a great idea when it comes to managing sleep apnea. By monitoring your progress and adjusting as needed, you can understand what’s affecting your sleep. Tools like ResMed's myNight™ and ResMed diary can help you track your sleep and gain actionable insights to improve your sleep quality.
While myNight is primarily used to detect your sleep apnea risk, you can also use it to monitor your sleep as well as compare how you sleep on therapy to how you sleep without it. By benchmarking your progress, you can see how your night-time behaviour affects your sleep and make changes accordingly.
CPAP therapy is the most popular and effective way to treat sleep apnea. If you have been advised to use CPAP therapy, your healthcare professional can help you select a CPAP device and mask tailored to your specific needs.
Now while CPAP devices may seem costly, many private health plans, including Medicare for some patients, cover the cost. Find out if you are eligible.
Having a support network can be the difference between succeeding in CPAP therapy and not. By educating your loved ones about the condition, you can feel supported and motivated.
It's also helpful to have someone to talk to and help you navigate any challenges that may arise during your therapy journey. Check out our tips on how to talk to your family about it.
Don't forget that ResMed's sleep coaches are also available to provide support and answer any questions you may have about sleep apnea and CPAP.
It’s important for your health and overall wellbeing to continue on your sleep apnea treatment journey. While it may feel overwhelming at first, sticking with therapy can ultimately lead to a better quality of life. Improved sleep and better relationships are just some of the benefits you can experience. And as your energy levels increase, you may even lose weight and participate in activities previously difficult due to fatigue.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, don't give up. Let us help you manage your condition, so you can sleep, breathe and live better. Book a sleep coach consult today.
ResMed is a global leader in sleep technology that has its origins right here in Australia. Our goal is to provide people with the means to awaken their best and enjoy healthier lives by promoting good sleep habits and creating awareness for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Benjafield AV, et al. “Estimation of the global prevalence and burden of obstructive sleep apnoea: a literature-based analysis.” Lancet Respir Med. 2019 Aug;7(8):687-698.
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