I never had allergies as a child, but when I was in my mid 20s, I thought I developed seasonal allergies. I felt like I had a severely stuffed up nose one fall that OTC allergies medications only helped a little. However, when the stuffed up nose persisted all winter, I realized I may have a bigger problem and visited an ENT. It turned out that I had been getting repeated sinus infections and never knew it! Thankfully, a round of antibiotics cleared it up and I wish I had sought treatment long ago. I have since become fascinated by disorders affecting the Ears, Nose, and Throat, so I decided to start a blog all about what I have learned about them. I plan to post many tips about sinus health. However, remember never to self-diagnose and visit an ENT when you develop new sinus problems!
People often think sleep apnea is something that happens only to those who are super-obese or who have had a lifelong structural issue in their mouth or throat that would block an airway. That's not the case. While obesity and congenital factors can certainly result in apnea, you don't have to have an extreme body to develop this condition. Even just getting older can lead to the condition for various reasons, such as muscle tone in your neck becoming flabbier and more likely to obstruct your airway when you lie down.
That means that you too could develop apnea, and it's crucial that you recognize the signs that you could be suffering from it. The sooner you know, the sooner you can treat it and avoid the secondary health problems that go along with it.
What Are People Telling You?
Have people like your bed partner or housemates started telling you that they can hear you snoring? Do they tell you that sometimes it sounds like you have stopped breathing? If you have other people telling you that, then there's a very good chance that you do have apnea. Stopping breathing while sleeping, only to suddenly jolt around a bit to start breathing again, is exactly what happens when you have obstructive sleep apnea. Something closes off your airway, and you actually wake up a little -- you likely won't remember waking up at all -- to shift so that you start breathing again.
Snoring means there is a partial blockage. You're still getting air, but the air flow is causing the obstruction to flap around and produce that snoring noise. That is also something that needs to be addressed by a specialist.
How Have You Felt Lately?
If you live by yourself or haven't heard complaints about snoring from housemates, check in with how you've been feeling lately. Have you felt rested after getting several hours of sleep? Have you been waking up with a headache and dry throat? Sleep apnea causes you to have those little wake-up sessions several times per hour, preventing you from feeling rested. The constant lack of oxygen can give you a headache, and if your mouth opens during your sleep, you can end up with a dry mouth and throat.
If these are occurring on a regular basis, contact an ENT who specializes in sleep apnea treatment to have a sleep study done. That study will give you a definite diagnosis of apnea or another condition, and you can proceed from there. You may end up using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask and machine, or you may be able to get something like a non-invasive oral appliance to help keep your airway open. Other people benefit from minor surgical procedures. And yet more people don't need any of those because losing weight was all they needed to do to stop the condition. The exact treatment depends on the exact cause of the obstruction.
Contact an ENT specialist as soon as you can if you think you might be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep is such a key component of well-being that you don't want to miss out on any sleep for any reason.Share