Have you been snoring a lot lately? It might not be something to just laugh about. One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring, so you'll need to have it checked as soon as possible to prevent any complications from happening. Once your doctor has diagnosed you as having sleep apnea, you might be wondering what to do next. It won't take merely the proper medication prescribed by your doctor, but the right lifestyle changes as well. Continue reading to learn what you should do after having been diagnosed with sleep apnea and how to improve your sleeping habits for a healthier lifestyle.
An Overview of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that millions of people suffer from. This condition happens when you have more pauses than you should in your breathing while you are asleep. The pauses can last from a few seconds up to minutes at a time, occurring as much as 30 times per hour. Normal breathing would resume with a choking sound or snort, disrupting your sleep by moving you out of deep sleep. Because of the lack of oxygen you get with sleep apnea, it can be fatal when left undiagnosed. It also leads to sleepiness throughout the day due to the lack of deep sleep you get throughout the night. Unfortunately, this disorder usually goes undiagnosed, as people often simply scoff at the main symptom, which is snoring or waking up at night.
It can happen to anyone, and it is more common in those who are either overweight or taking certain medications. If left untreated, it would increase your risk of heart failure or irregular heartbeat. It can also increase your risk of other heart diseases and diabetes. This is why it's crucial to treat it once you experience the symptoms, such as snoring or any fatigue due to a lack of quality sleep.
What Your Doctor Will Prescribe You
Sleep apnea is often diagnosed by your doctor by looking through your medical and family histories, as well as conducting physical exams to see if either of your tonsils or your uvula is enlarged, which would act as an obstruction to your breathing. Sleep studies such as a polysomnogram or a home-based portable monitor would check up on the way you sleep and see whether you do have sleep apnea. In case you do, your doctor will then prescribe any of the following treatments and drugs:
- A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, is a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep, and will help keep your air passages open. This prevents any form of apnea and snoring, helping you breathe better. This is the most common method, though other people feel uncomfortable when wearing it due to the mask. It will take time to adjust to it.
- There are other devices that can provide airway pressure, changing it while you sleep. A Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, or BiPAP, provides more pressure as you inhale and less when you exhale. This is up to your doctor's diagnosis.
- An Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure, or EPAP, the device is another option for those who do not like the CPAP mask, as you simply place the device over your nostrils before sleeping. But take note that these are for single use only and they are more expensive.
- If you have mild sleep apnea, you can opt for oral appliances that keep your mouth (and airway passages) open. They are easy to use, though not as reliable as machines. You can ask your dentist for these types of tools, such as a mouth guard to lessen your snoring. What's great about oral appliances is that they are small and thus very portable, which is beneficial for travelers. That being said, there are CPAP machines that are compact and easy to travel with as well.
If none of the therapies have worked for you after three months, your doctor may consider surgery. It would only be the first option for those who have jaw problems, as surgery enlarges the airway through your throat. They may either remove some enlarged tissue, reposition your jaw, or add plastic rods to your soft palate to encourage better breathing.
They may even create another passageway, i.e., perform a tracheotomy. The last one is the last option, and for those whose sleep apnea is life-threatening. Other forms of surgery include nasal surgery and removal of any enlarged tonsils and adenoids. If your sleep apnea is caused by obesity, weight loss surgery may be needed.
How to Sleep Better and Make the Right Lifestyle Changes
Now that you know the possible treatments your doctor will prescribe, the next step is to consider the various lifestyle changes you should make. The first step you should take is to tell your partner and family, especially those who sleep next to you. They need to understand how sleep apnea works and what happens if it is left untreated, so they will be able to take care of you better.
Tell them about what they should expect during the therapy, especially if it includes you using a CPAP machine (your partner may be bothered or disturbed at first, which is why it's best to lay down your options and work on it together). Your family members can also keep tabs on you while you sleep, ensuring that the CPAP mask is properly adjusted for your comfort and safety. Once you have told your loved ones about it, it's time to make lifestyle changes:
- Your doctor may suggest that you lose weight, especially if you are obese and the main reason why you suffer from the sleep disorder is your weight. So begin eating healthier and putting in more exercise to make the right changes.
- Having a fixed sleeping schedule and relaxing rituals before bedtime will also help you lull yourself to sleep. They will also improve the quality of your sleep, helping you stay energized for the day ahead.
- It's best to sleep on your back or side when sleeping, to allow for better breathing. You can purchase a CPAP machine suitable for the position you prefer (either side or back). Never sleep on your stomach.
- Avoid eating huge meals right before sleeping. It will cause heartburn, which disrupts your sleep. Instead, eat at least three hours before sleeping or only a small snack if you are hungry, such as milk or bananas.
- Exercise in the morning, which allows your body temperature to decrease as the day goes by. This will help make you sleepy at night, resulting in better sleep.
- Quit your vices, such as smoking and drinking. Doing so will help with your breathing issues overall.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you shouldn't leave it unattended. You'll need to make sure that you go for the right treatment plan to prevent any complications in the long run. While it will require some lifestyle changes and treatments, it will be an excellent decision in the long-term as your mind and body will become even healthier. Consult your doctor to get the best recommendations on what you should do for your sleep.