Judy Blume is quoted as saying, “Snoring keeps the monsters away.” While this is a clever anecdote, the truth for millions of Americans who suffer from sleep apnea—many of them without even realizing it—is that snoring may have its roots in something far more dangerous than fictional creatures. Snoring may be a sign that what’s causing you to stay up at night or wake exhausted is, in fact, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, “It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.” Are you one of those millions? Do you stop breathing throughout the night or snore to the point where you wake up your partner? It could be sleep apnea.
While snoring is considered the most obvious symptom of OSA, not everyone who suffers from sleep apnea does snore. That’s why it’s so important to understand the most common sleep apnea causes: Your risk factors may not be what you would expect.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder defined by a sleeper who stops breathing for intervals of 10 seconds or longer during sleep. When a sleeper’s airway becomes completely blocked, snoring and breathing are both stopped until the brain senses the apnea and signals the muscles to tighten, returning airflow but waking the sleeper in the process.
| Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder defined by a sleeper who stops breathing for intervals of 10 seconds or longer during sleep.
If you are a sleep apnea sufferer, you may be waking hundreds of times throughout the night without a conscious knowledge of it. Instead, you may be experiencing morning headaches, daytime fatigue, nocturia (waking up frequently to use the bathroom), or other forms of insomnia. Understanding the most common causes of OSA is the first step to diagnosing your sleep apnea and working towards a more restful night’s sleep.
The Top 6 Obstructive Sleep Apnea Causes Keeping You Up at Night
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that has a handful of causes—some hereditary, some based on lifestyle choices. These are the top six sleep apnea causes. One of them may be what’s keeping you up at night.
- Excess weight or obesity
- Excessive smoking
- Neck size
- Family history
- Using alcohol or sedatives used to fall asleep
Sleep Apnea Cause #1: Excess Weight or Obesity
Your risk for sleep apnea is higher if you are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, or are obese with a BMI of 30 or higher.
What steps can you take? Exercise and eat right.
Sleep Apnea Cause #2: Excessive Smoking
Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA than those who don’t. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
What steps can you take? Stop smoking.
Sleep Apnea Cause #3: Neck Size
People with thicker necks may have narrower airways. Men with a neck circumference above 17 inches (43 centimeters) and women with a neck circumference above 15 inches (38 centimeters) have an increased risk. When the circumference reaches these sizes, the airway may become narrower.
What steps can you take? Speak to your doctor if you think this may be affecting your sleep.
Sleep Apnea Cause #4: Family History
Sleep apnea is a heritable condition. If you have family members with sleep apnea, you may have an increased risk. Inherited traits and physical features such as a recessed jaw or large overbite play a role.
What steps can you take? Stay informed about sleep apnea, with the help of your doctor—and surgery may be possible to correct some traits affecting your sleep.
Sleep Apnea Cause #5: Using Alcohol or Sedatives to Fall Asleep
These substances relax the muscles in your throat, allowing the blocked airway to develop.
What steps can you take? Reduce or stop the use of these substances close to bedtime.
Sleep Apnea Cause #6: Gender
OSA is four times more likely to develop in men than women, but women are more likely to develop it during pregnancy and after menopause.
What steps can you take? Regardless of gender, talk to your doctor if you think Sleep Apnea may be impacting your health.
How to Manage the Causes of Sleep Apnea
Knowing the cause of your sleep apnea is half the battle toward getting a good night’s sleep. Untreated sleep apnea can leave you feeling drowsy, increasing the risk of accidents while working or driving. It can also lead to potentially serious health complications like heart disease and depression. Increasing evidence also suggests that OSA is strongly associated with high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, heart attack, diabetes, heart failure, hypothyroidism, and an abnormal heart rhythm. About half of sleep apnea patients have hypertension and untreated OSA increases the risk of heart-related illness and death.
| Critical first steps in treating OSA may include regular exercise, cutting off drinking and smoking, weight loss, and side sleeping.
People who are affected by OSA should begin to make lifestyle changes, under the supervision of their doctor. Lifestyle modifications are essential to normalizing breathing. Critical first steps in treating OSA may include regular exercise, cutting off drinking and smoking, weight loss, and side sleeping.
Medical treatments may also be an option, including the use of oral appliances or surgery to improve signs and symptoms of OSA, as well as it’s complications and health risks. In taking steps to treat this disorder, you’re gaining control of your life again by getting a restful night’s sleep—and that’s a dream come true.
Sleep Well Rested offers thousands of sleep apnea suffers a natural solution for treating the root cause of OSA. Provent is an effective alternative to traditional, restrictive CPAP machines. To learn more, contact one of our reps, call 888-834-4381, or order the Provent 14-day trial online today.
Image courtesy Unsplash user Leighann Renee