What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes abnormal or inadequate breathing while sleeping. This condition affects more than 20 million Americans, stopping them from getting a good, restorative night’s sleep. Not only that, it puts your health at risk and lowers your overall quality of life.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
The most common type of sleep apnea, OSA occurs when the muscles in the throat relax too much while sleeping.
Central sleep apnea (CSA)
A less common form of sleep apnea, CSA occurs when your brain has issues sending the right breathing signals to your body.
Complex sleep apnea (otherwise known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea)
This form of apnea occurs when a person has both OSA and CSA.1
Statistics and other data courtesy of American Sleep Apnea Association. 2
You’re more likely to have sleep apnea if you…
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a family history of sleep apnea or snoring
- Have a large neck or large tonsils
- Drink heavily, especially at night
- Are post-menopausal
- Have a smaller than average lower jaw
- Are male
- Are middle-aged or elderly
- Have high levels of growth hormone, or low levels of thyroid hormone
- Have a history of COPD or other heart issues
- Are taking opioids, prescribed or otherwise 3, 4
Lifestyle factors or genetic factors can cause sleep apnea. Having an understanding of your family history as well as adjusting your lifestyle can help reduce your susceptibility to sleep apnea.
Signs of sleep apnea
If you notice that you have several of these symptoms, it may be possible that you have sleep apnea.
- Your sleeping partner has complained that you snore loudly or stop breathing for a few seconds while you sleep.
- You have awoken from sleep gasping for breath, choking, or snorting.
- You awaken with a dry mouth or sore throat.
- You have problems staying asleep most nights.
- You wake up with a headache.
- You’re often sleepy or tired during the day despite sleeping at night.
- Your sleep partner has told you that you sometimes stop breathing when you sleep.
- You have concentration or memory issues during your waking hours.
- You have a lower interest in sex or are having problems with sexual dysfunction.
- You get up in the middle of the night to urinate often. 5
Often it may take a doctor or a partner to point out these symptoms, as they can be difficult to notice, especially the ones that occur while asleep.
Know the signs and rest easy.
While medications are not the primary treatment for sleep apnea, they can go a long way in helping to relieve your symptoms. In conjunction with CPAP machines, lifestyle changes, and better sleep habits, your doctor can also prescribe medication or supplements.
Many over-the-counter solutions, including supplements such as melatonin or valerian, are readily available at your nearest pharmacy. Over-the-counter medications that contain diphenhydramine can also help with issues falling asleep.
However, if you find that doesn’t help, or you are experiencing other symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, talk to your doctor to see if a prescription medication is needed. GeniusRx can work with your pharmacy to offer you FDA-approved medications such as Ramelteon, which can help relieve sleep apnea’s more frustrating symptoms.