Over 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that can increase the risk of heart attack or dying. It is also linked to other issues such as high blood pressure, strokes, and even falling asleep at the wheel! Like many conditions, sleep apnea ranges in severity, type, and cause. One such type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If you snore or possibly suffer from OSA, this article may help you get a better night’s sleep! Obstructive Sleep Apnea, is the most common form of sleep apnea, and one of the easiest treat. Whereas Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), originates in the brain and is much more difficult to treat. While more treatable, OSA can be difficult to detect, especially in children. Whereas CSA can cause people to feel like they are choking, leading to quicker detection and treatment. It’s important to note that while snoring often leads people to discover they have sleep apnea, not all who snore have the condition.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Before we discuss how sleeping positions can help (or hurt) sleep apnea sufferers, here’s a list of some of the more obvious warning signs to watch for. Like the condition itself, these vary in severity from normal to acute.
Frequent daytime sleepiness is a good indicator that you’re not sleeping well. Even if you don’t remember tossing and turning, sometimes breathing problems keep you from falling into a deep sleep. This can present as difficulty in carrying out normal daily activities. You might fall asleep while driving or working!
Gasping, Choking When Sleeping
Loved ones may tell you that you gasp or choke in sleep. Gasping and choking indicates that you might be prone to waking up at night with shortness of breath. It can lead to nighttime restlessness and eventually present as daytime sleepiness.
You might encounter regular morning headaches if your tongue and soft palette block air passages. This can be the result of the gradual build-up of carbon dioxide in your blood from inadequate airflow.
Dry Mouth and Drooling
While this may appear ironic, sleep apnea can lead to both a dry mouth and drooling. Both are a result of sleeping with your mouth open due to inadequate nasal airflow.
While snoring alone doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea, it is still a regular symptom. This particular affliction can also lead to a grumpy spouse and sore ribs from your sleepy partner’s elbow encouraging you to turn over!
Mood Swings and Restlessness
While a bad night’s sleep can always leave us grumpy, sleep apnea can create an ongoing cycle of tiredness. One common sign of this cycle is increasingly sever mood swings and irritation. While none of these sound very fun, sleep apnea can lead to much more severe impacts on your health. It can affect your level of physical activity, productivity, and can even lead to impotence.
Best Sleeping Positions for Sleep Apnea
Everyone has a favorite sleeping position or little rituals they prefer to fall asleep. For some, that extra pillow is a must-have. Others fall asleep best with their hands above their heads, or any number of other personal habits. For most, this is simply a personal choice and they think nothing of it. But for sleep apnea sufferers, it’s not about falling asleep, but how to stay asleep and finally get some rest.If you’re experiencing these symptoms — or even just snoring — finding the right sleeping position may make your night.
The Supine Sleeping Position
If you snore or are suffering from sleep apnea, lying flat on your back (supine sleeping position) is the last thing you want to do. Your tongue, jaws, and soft palate drop towards your throat due to the gravitational force. This reduces the size of your air passages and can lead to breathing problems. Hence, you should avoid sleeping in a supine position if you are suffering from sleep apnea.
The Prone Sleeping Position
To negate the impact of gravity, you can think of sleeping on your stomach. Theoretically, gravity will pull your tongue and palate forward. But issues arise when you have to readjust your head to make way for your mouth and nose to breathe. You have to turn and twist your neck to keep on breathing. In the end, this position does not improve your ability to breathe, and in some cases can make things worse.
The Lateral Sleeping Position
Research shows sleeping on your side is most ideal for those who suffer from snoring and sleep apnea. Airways stabilize when you lie on your side. This, in turn, lowers the chance of collapsing or restriction in your airflow. So to increase your chances of breathing easier while sleeping, and getting a better night’s rest, try sleeping on your side.
Don’t DIY Your ZZZ Troubles
It’s important to note that if you’re experiencing more than one of the symptoms noted earlier, you may want to visit a doctor. You might have sleep apnea, which as noted earlier, can lead to serious health issues. Maybe also consider finding a sleep specialist in your area. Your spouse (and your sore ribs) may thank you!
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- Respiratory health
- Sleep apnea
- Sleep disorder