Understanding sleep apnea will have you feeling empowered and ready to take the next steps in restoring your quality sleep.
Treating your sleep apnea will see you enjoying the benefits and help get you back to being your bright, more energised self.
The whole idea of having sleep apnea may be a bit daunting, but look on the bright side: when you know what’s been affecting your health and enjoyment of life —you can do something about it!
No matter what stage you're at, knowledge is power. The more you know about sleep apnea and its treatment, the more comfortable you’ll feel about it all.
Getting used to the idea of treatment can take a little while. You need to be patient with the process and do your research, but it can be quite time consuming and overwhelming.
To help we’ve put all the information in one article, so you can read through all the basics and get started on your journey to a better night's sleep.
Let's start with the definition. Sleep apnea (sometimes spelled sleep apnoea) is a sleep disorder where your natural breathing pattern is briefly paused or interrupted entirely during sleep.
There are a few different types, but the most common is known as ‘obstructive sleep apnea’. This occurs when the muscles in your throat controlling your upper airway relax too much while you’re asleep. If this happens, your upper airway becomes constricted and you may begin to take shallow breaths or snore. If the airway constricts even further, it may become completely obstructed. You temporarily stop breathing and your blood oxygen level dips.
Sensing this, your brain will force you to cough, choke or snort to clear the airway passage and resume normal breathing again, disrupting your sleep. Typically, you won't fully wake or even remember it the following morning.
This wouldn't be so much of an issue if it only occurred occasionally, however, people with sleep apnea can experience this several hundred times a night! This continual disruption to your sleep patterns, combined with the repeated restriction of oxygen can result in poor quality sleep every night. This can take its toll on your body and can put you at risk of health complications if left untreated.
The following factors are generally considered to contribute to sleep apnea:
However, keep in mind that everyone's circumstances are different.
You may not remember waking throughout the night due to restricted breathing. So the first inkling that you may have a problem is when your partner or friends overhear you snoring or choking while you sleep. Or you could experience a combination of the following symptoms:
Symptoms like these are frustrating enough when they occur every once in a while, but when they’re happening regularly, it’s a sign that you may have sleep apnea. A home sleep study can help you find out.
Sleep plays an important role in maintaining both your physical and mental health.
The frequent disturbances in your breathing during the night caused by sleep apnea may prevent you from getting a healthy amount of sleep. This can affect your quality of life, your work and eventually, your relationships.
But besides these more general effects, there are more serious health concerns related to sleep apnea too. The lack of oxygen and the strain it puts on your body over the long term can take its toll. Some of the risks linked to sleep apnea are high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, heart attack, Type 2 diabetes, and even increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.
Fortunately, treatment can help manage the symptoms that affect your daily life, as well as reduce the risk of the more serious issues.
If you think you might have sleep apnea, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. You can do a simple free sleep assessment to see if you’re at risk. To diagnose sleep apnea a home sleep test is generally needed.
How is sleep apnea treated?
There are several sleep apnea treatment options available that can help alleviate symptoms and restore your healthy sleep.
Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy delivers air through a mask while you sleep. There are several different types of PAP2
A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (or CPAP) machine is a device which delivers a continual flow of air from a pump through a tube to a mask that you wear while you sleep to keep your airways open. This eliminates the need for your body to continually wake throughout the night to restore normal breathing, allowing for a more restful sleep.
CPAP is a popular choice because it’s an effective and non-invasive treatment that produces successful results.
Similar to CPAP, an Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (or APAP) machine works in the same way, but it can automatically vary the air pressure you receive throughout the night in response to your needs, offering a more tailored treatment.
Bi-level therapy is typically used when someone needs a specifically high pressure for effective treatment.
Your dentist can make you a custom mouthpiece that will hold your bottom jaw in a forward position, making more space behind your tongue. One such example is called a Narval™CC. It helps to keep your upper airway open, preventing it from becoming restricted. This type or therapy is proven effective for people with mild and moderate obstructive sleep apnea, who cannot tolerate CPAP.
If CPAP or mandibular therapy haven’t worked for you, there are more invasive surgical options that can be performed. Surgery is normally considered a last resort for sleep apnea.
Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake and losing weight can all help treat sleep apnea by reducing the potential contributing causes.
For example, if you have mild sleep apnea, losing weight can help decrease fat deposits around your neck. This can reduce disruptive breathing and alleviate symptoms.
Being diagnosed with sleep apnea and starting treatment can feel overwhelming at first. However, the benefits of reducing the symptoms can enable you to reclaim your quality of life and have the energy to do the things you love.
Improve your sleep so you can awaken your best and feel like a new you.
Getting used to CPAP is different for everyone. Some people take to their therapy right away while others need a little more time to get comfortable.
Here are some important tips for getting used to a CPAP mask and machine when you’re trying to get to sleep.
Remember the goal is to make your therapy a key part of your health routine that you use every night. Your CPAP treatment will only be of benefit to you if it’s being used.
Try using your equipment for a few short periods during the day while you’re awake. A good place to start is to wear your mask while you are watching TV or reading.1
When you get your CPAP machine, it should already be set up to suit your needs, but you may need to make some subtle adjustments to your mask.
Most problems with therapy occur when your mask doesn’t fit properly. A poor mask fit means you may not be able to go to sleep as easily as you should.
Adjustments to your mask, to improve seal and comfort, can be made during the day. In the first instance, stand or sit in front of a mirror with your mask on and make necessary adjustments to improve comfort. Then connect your mask to the CPAP tubing, lie down and turn your machine on. Your face contour changes when you are lying down so this is a very important step in checking for leaks and comfort.
If you’re still having trouble getting comfortable with your mask, you may need to contact or visit a ResMed store or Authorised Dealer to check your mask fitting. Call 1800 737 633 (1800 ResMed) for an appointment.
Improving your sleep hygiene is an important step to making your sleep therapy as successful as possible.
Before starting out on CPAP therapy, make sure you’re doing your best to maintain good sleep hygiene. What does this mean? It means making sure your lifestyle and sleep habits are helping you to sleep well on a regular basis. Learn more about sleep hygiene.
ResMed CPAP machines all have a ‘ramp’ setting. When you’ve made your way to bed and fitted your mask, start up your machine. If the air pressure from your machine feels too high as you’re trying to fall asleep, use the ‘ramp’ mode.
The ramp mode will start your device on a low pressure and gradually increase the pressure over time. This should help you fall asleep before the air pressure reaches its prescribed level.
Many CPAP devices now also come equipped with a Sleep Onset Detection feature, where the machine will begin at a low pressure and won’t ramp up to the prescribed pressure until it detects that you have fallen asleep.
It takes a while for most people to get comfortable using a CPAP machine and mask every night. Be patient with yourself. Trying the above tips will help you be successful with your sleep therapy so that you can reclaim your days and improve your health and well-being.
If you’re looking for more information about sleep apnea treatment download this e-book which will explain more about the machines, masks and how to get the best out of your treatment.
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.
EdenSleep. What is sleep apnea? https://www.edensleep.co.nz/what-is-sleep-apnea . accessed 28 June 2019.
https://www.resmed.com.au/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea-treatment accessed 28 June 2019.
Meurice et al. Eur Resp J: 2013;42(57):1056S.
Vecchierini MF et al. Sleep Med. 2016 Mar;19:131-40.
http://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/treatment-options/surgery.html . accessed 28 June 2019.
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