Do you ever wake up choking at night? Are you moody? Are you often tired as soon as you get up? Is your mouth always dry in the morning? Do you have a sore throat when you wake up? Do you suffer with Depression? Do you often wake up with a headache? Are you known for your snoring?
You may be suffering from OSA, or Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is not a joke, ask anyone who has it. Exhausted sufferers are more likely to have road accidents. High blood pressure and heart attacks are linked to it. OSA in babies has been sighted as a cause of cot death.
The fear of OSA is almost as bad as the condition itself, which is why many people try and ignore it.
We all like to joke about a heavy snorer we know, but what if the snoring was a sign that they were slowly dying?
We know we must sleep in order to survive.
The fact that we expect our body to continue to function while we are at rest is fundamental to the security we have of not dying when we sleep.
If you think you may stop breathing while you sleep, will you sleep peacefully? Probably not.
All of the side effects listed, night-time choking, moodiness, exhaustion, sore throats, depression, headaches and snoring are all part and parcel of the daily lives for people with this condition.
When we stop breathing due to an obstructed airway, we lose oxygen for a few moments. This is not good.
And it is not only a lack of oxygen to the brain and body that is a problem. Sleep apnoea also increases your risk of tooth decay. If the body is unable to reach it’s required oxygen levels, it may force the body to open it’s mouth while it is at rest. This open-mouthed sleeping dries out the throat and gums, meaning that protective saliva is not there to wash away the bacteria that love to feast on our gnashers.
If you think you may have sleep apnoea, go and see a doctor, but unless it appears immediately life threatening, there are ways to try and combat the problem before you need to seek medical intervention like surgery.
A fat body tends to have a fatter neck and tongue, with more weight to contend with generally, so the first suggestion is always ‘lose weight’. This is not something that happens overnight, however, so in the meantime, exercises that improve lung strength also help. Yoga and swimming force the body to think about breathing. All exercise improves lung capacity. Get moving in the day so that you can rest properly at night.
Smoking is a bad idea for your lungs anyway. Stop smoking.
Alcohol is a muscle relaxant. If you drink before bed, all of you will relaaaaax…including your throat, lungs and tongue. This is working against your breathing apparatus. Don’t get tanked and fall asleep.
Try and sleep on your side. There are lots of articles that suggest sewing tennis balls to your bed clothes…OK…I don’t know anyone who actually does that…and what if you sleep naked…so maybe just set up some extra pillows into a kind of shape that stops you from lying flat.
Make your air temperature comfortable, not too hot and not too cold. Give your throat and lungs a chance to function in optimal circumstances. If you suffer from allergies, make your sleeping space allergy free. You don’t need anything else stressing your airways.
If this isn’t enough, talk to your dentist.
The many important issues surrounding this problem has led to a number of devices appearing on the market.
You can try something that is designed to keep your teeth and tongue in place overnight so that your tongue doesn’t obstruct your airways.
CPAP machines are the more heavy-duty option before surgeons get involved. Although not sexy, they are effective. Luckily, they are also getting smaller, quieter and more user friendly. No one wakes up one day and wishes they had a CPAP machine unless they have been awake half the night worried because they may need a CPAP machine.
In much the same way as everyone wishes JaJa Binks hadn’t appeared in Star Wars, we wish CPAPs were a bit better, but for now this is what we have.
In the worst-case scenario, serious medical intervention is required. Along with prescription drugs, that may be the removal of tonsils and adenoids, or some other surgical procedure that will open your airways enough to resolve the problem. Although drastic, it will also be life changing.
Like all health issues, those trained in the field know best, so if you are not getting the rest you need, go and speak to someone who can help you get a genuine good night’s sleep. That is a thing worth fighting for.