Sleep apnea is one of the many sleep disorders that can affect the quality of someone’s sleep. It is a serious disorder during which a person’s breathing will stop and then start again repeatedly. We will talk about the main symptoms of sleep apnea later in this article, however If you are a loud snorer who wakes feeling tired despite managing to get a full night’s sleep, then there is a possibility that you might have sleep apnea. 

In the UK according to the Sleep Apnoea Trust, around 13% of men and 6% of women between the ages of 20-70 suffer with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). That number is the equivalent of approximately 4 million people.  Sleep apnea in children is very common with statistics showing that in 2017/18, a total of 7443 children under the age of 10 were admitted to hospital with sleep-apnea-related issues.

Sleep Apnea airway obstructionThe most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when the muscles of the throat relax. 

If you believe that you might have sleep apnea, it is a good idea to discuss your concerns with your GP. They will be able to test and give you a sleep apnea diagnosis if that is what is suspected. There is treatment available which could help to ease your symptoms and may help prevent future health issues such as heart problems. Some people have mild sleep apnea, which can be treated with simple lifestyle changes, but for others severe sleep apnea can be an issue and other treatments might be required.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

If you are wondering whether you have sleep apnea symptoms, NHS England advises that these are some of the signs of sleep apnea to look out for:

Symptoms whilst sleeping:

  • Breathing that stops and starts
  • Making snorting, gasping or choking noises
  • Waking up frequently
  • Snoring that is loud

Symptoms whilst awake, or during the daytime can include:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Lacking in concentration 
  • Mood swings
  • On waking you might have a headache

Because some of these symptoms occur whilst you are sleeping, you may be unaware of them. It can be helpful to ask someone to check on you whilst you sleep to see if you display symptoms.

Many people ask if you can you die from sleep apnea, and the answer is unfortunately that in some cases, it can very occasionally lead to death. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, a history of stroke, diabetes or heart disease then it is more likely your sleep apnea could lead to sudden cardiac arrest. It is therefore a good idea to discuss sleep apnea as soon as you can with your GP if you fall into this category so you can get help to avoid this happening.

Sleep Apnea Causes and treatment

CPAP-Sleep-Apnea

A sleep apnea patient using CPAP

The most common cause of sleep apnea in adults is being overweight. If you fit into this category, then your GP will probably suggest sleep apnea treatment that involves losing weight.

Other things that might be suggested for sleep apnea in adults is to avoid alcohol at bedtime and not smoking. There is no sleep apnea cure as such. However, there are several lifestyle changes that you can put in place to help reduce your sleep apnea. If you want to know how to stop sleep apnea then in addition to the lifestyle choices already mentioned there are several sleep apnea devices you might like to try such as sleep apnea pillows, a sleep apnea monitor with a mask (CPAP), or a mouthguard that has been specially designed for those with a sleep apnea diagnosis.

If you are looking at how to treat sleep apnea before purchasing a special pillow, then the NHS suggests sleeping on your side with a tennis ball stitched into the back of your nightwear. This stops you moving onto your back whilst you sleep. Some people like to try this before purchasing special equipment as it is a much cheaper option than specialist equipment. 

While sleep apnea may cause you issues with tiredness, and it could be dangerous in some cases, it can be managed in many cases. If you believe you may be suffering from sleep apnea, then the best advice would be to see your GP, who could give you a range of options for managing the disorder.