Put Your Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) to Rest

Put Your Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) to Rest

People who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) experience repeated breathing pauses during sleep. Their loud snoring doesn’t just make them groggy the next day; it often awakens and frustrates their partners.

“When people with OSA are asleep, their throat narrows, causing decreased oxygen intake,” said Dr. Dale Coller, board-certified specialist in critical care, pulmonary and sleep medicine at Holland Hospital Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine. “When breathing stops, the person wakes up, usually with a loud snort or gasping sound, and breathing then continues. Without treatment, OSA raises the risk of potentially life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.”

In addition to loud snoring, other less obvious signs of OSA include:

  • Daytime sleepiness. Feeling sleepy or falling asleep while reading, watching TV or even when driving.
  • Headache. Morning headaches located at the front and sides of your head that often last for several hours.
  • Trouble concentrating. OSA makes it hard to get enough restorative sleep.
  • Mood changes. Feeling irritable or depressed.
  • Decreased libido.
  • Excessive perspiration at night. Waking up to sweaty sheets and pajamas on a regular basis.
  • Sore throat. Dry and/or sore throat when you’re not sick caused by repeated gasping, choking or blocked airflow during sleep.

Along with using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, a common treatment option for OSA, these tips can also help those living with sleep apnea:

  • Shed extra weight. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, about half of people who have OSA are overweight. Losing as little as 20 pounds can make a significant difference in sleep quality.
  • Exercise. Exercise is beneficial to your overall health and wellness, as well as makes you feel more tired so you sleep better. A recent study also showed that CPAP therapy increases the ability to be active during the day.
  • Limit alcohol and avoid sleeping pills. Both can decrease muscle tone in the back of your throat, which can disrupt air flow.
  • If you smoke, do your best to quit. Smoking can increase swelling in your upper airway, making snoring and apnea worse.
  • Change positions in bed. “Try to stay off your back while sleeping,” Dr. Coller added. “If you wake up on your back, roll to your side. Sleeping on your side helps keep the throat open.”
  • Manage allergies. Nasal allergies cause the tissues in your airways to swell. Talk to your doctor about how to better control allergies.

Dr. Coller spoke about sleep apnea during a special video premiere Healthy Life Talk. You can watch it here:

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