Sleep apnea is often misunderstood, but it is not rare. It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from this disorder, and about 80% of these people are undiagnosed. Thus, roughly one in 15 adults is affected. Although men are at a higher risk of sleep apnea than women, both can suffer from this affliction.
There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive (OSA) and Central (CSA). Obstructive is anatomical and is typically more common, while Central has neurological causes. Both conditions can co-present and have multiple repercussions ranging from loud, guttural snoring to lapses in breath long enough to potentially cause death. Regardless of severity, we know that sleep apnea is disruptive to one’s sleep cycle. As sleep is essential to one’s overall health and well-being, anything that disturbs it needs attention.
Obesity can be a cause and, also, an effect of sleep apnea, a vicious cycle that exacerbates the condition. In addition, it can create other circumstances that, in turn, worsens it. So it is not something to be taken lightly.
What can you do about it? First, consult a medical professional to get a proper diagnosis. You can adopt lifestyle changes that lessen your symptoms or even possibly cure your ailment. In more severe cases, or in the case of CSA, one might need devices to maintain a clear breathing path, such as a CPAP mechanism or medication. Less severe cases can be treated with nasal strips, custom mouthpieces, or simple bedding tweaks.
Changing your bedding can be an easy fix. A firm, substantial pillow can position the head in a manner more advantageous to maintaining an open airway. Specialty pillows in the shape of a wedge can elevate the head and release pressure from the respiratory system. If you are using a CPAP, there are pillows designed specifically to coordinate with those machines, and both help spinal alignment and prevent air leakage from the mask.
According to The Sleep Foundation, a 2017 study concluded that slight elevation of the upper body “significantly improves OSA severity without interfering in sleep architecture.” An adjustable mattress base can be used to achieve sleeping positions that are conducive to alleviating apnea symptoms. Improved sleep quality can be had at just a 7.5-degree elevation of the head.
A good night’s sleep cannot be taken for granted, apnea or no apnea. Hopefully, some of the suggestions above can facilitate achieving those solid seven to eight hours of undisturbed shut-eye per night. Whether it’s a mattress, a pillow, or a machine, find whatever way works best for you. Your health depends on it!