Sleep Apnea, Snoring, and What To Do About It

Health Effects of Obstructed Breathing During the Night

Sleep Apnea Background

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that involves difficulty breathing when asleep. The word “apnea” literally translates from the Latin to “without breathing.” A familiar symptom of sleep apnea is snoring, which occurs during the night when a person is gasping for air. Though snoring is common, just because you snore it doesn’t mean you necessarily have sleep apnea. Nonetheless, this gasping that causes snoring prevents healthy sleep, particularly because it reduces the time spent in restorative deep sleep (Carskadon & Rechtschaffen, 1994). The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimated in 2006 that one in fifteen people suffer from sleep apnea. Other indicators of sleep apnea include waking up tired, being overweight, the distribution of fat in the stomach and neck areas, menopause, and heredity. Recent population health studies have found that those with untreated sleep apnea have a five times higher morbidity rate than those with treated sleep apnea. (Nieto, Young, Lind, Shahar, Samet, et al., 2000). If you think you or someone you know might have sleep apnea, see a doctor and get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment. 

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs Central Sleep Apnea

While most sleep apnea is caused by a physical obstruction of the airway, known as obstructive sleep apnea, sleep apnea can also be caused by the brain not providing the correct signals to breath properly. This is known as central sleep apnea. Complex sleep apnea can also occur when both obstructive and central are combined. A sleep lab is typically need to evaluate this distinction between central and obstructive sleep apnea. Oftentimes treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is using a CPAP or BIPAP, which you can discuss with your physician - typically a pulmonologist or a neurologist. Dentists have another solution for treating obstructive sleep apnea, where they can provide a mouth-plate designed to shift the jaw forward and open up the airway. This treatment has shown the most efficacy for mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea and can be a good solution for non-compliant CPAP or BIPAP users. Weight lose is another great solution for reducing or even curing sleep apnea.  

Snoring Solutions

Snoring on the other hand can be a completely healthy phenomenon - though disruptive to one's sleeping partner. But its not just about the sleep partner. It is always better to address snoring when you can because it can also negatively impact sleep. If you think you may have a deviated septum, this can cause snoring and is totally treatable by seeing your general practitioner. Other ways to address snoring can include using sounds to block out the disruptive noise that is made when one snores. Within SleepSpace you can measure snoring based on our measure of sound disruptions on the app. We also have a way of measuring brain arousals if you are an Apple Watch users. This can be a useful indicator of your sleep quality throughout the night and to evaluate your progress with snoring and breathing. Finally, snoring can often be caused by simply not knowing how to breath correctly. Try the breathing exercises found within SleepSpace, such as the diaphragmatic breathing exercises that trains you to breath more deeply, strongly, and consistently.