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5 Reasons You Should Treat Sleep Apnea without CPAP

June 08, 2022
Approximately 50 to 70 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder characterized by disruptions in breathing. If not treated, it can lead to serious health complications.

Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed because most people are not aware of their symptoms. However, by learning more about sleep apnea, as well as the causes, symptoms, and treatment options, patients can reduce their risk of health issues.

What is sleep apnea?

As mentioned, sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder, characterized by abnormal breathing during sleep. Patients with sleep apnea experience interruptions or reductions in their breathing while they are sleeping. These interruptions may cause them to wake up periodically and reduce the quality of sleep, they typically don’t fully wake and are unaware that their breathing is abnormal.

There are several types of sleep apnea:
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a condition in which the airway at the back of the throat becomes blocked- which may cause snoring. In response to this constriction, the person usually wakes, engages the muscles in their throat, and gasps or takes several deep breaths- which makes a choking or snorting sound.

This is the most common type of sleep apnea, affecting approximately 10% to 30% of American adults. However, many times it goes undiagnosed where appropriate medical help from an oral specialist isn’t sought.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is when there is a disruption in communication between the brain and muscles that control breathing. This often causes breathing to become shallow with temporary pauses.

 

CSA is not as common as OSA. According to research, under 1% of the population has CSA.
What causes sleep apnea?

 

The causes of sleep apnea vary, depending on the type of sleep apnea:

OSA Causes

In those with OSA, the muscles in the back of the throat relax while sleeping, which reduces the space that air passes through. As the airway narrows, it causes snoring and if obstructed, the person can’t get enough oxygen. This causes partial to full awakening to restore airflow. These disruptions in breathing happen repeatedly.

CSA Causes

CSA is the result of issues in communication between the brain and the muscles responsible for breathing. In those with CSA, the brain stem does not recognize the levels of carbon dioxide in the body, which leads to slower, shallow breathing.

How is sleep apnea treated?

There are several treatments for sleep apnea. The most common one is to use a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine. There are several advantages and disadvantages to using a CPAP machine:

Benefits of CPAP

The benefits of CPAP therapy are as follows:
  1. Improves heart health
  2. There is some research that indicates CPAP may improve cardiovascular health. That being said, more research is needed on patients with OSA. CPAP therapy does reduce blood. When you don’t get enough sleep, your risk of vehicle accidents is increased because you don’t respond as quickly, have a hard time making decisions, and struggle with multi-tasking- which are all required for driving.

    Patients who use CPAP reduce their risk of car accidents because they are getting better sleep. pressure, even if high blood pressure wasn’t an issue to begin with. CPAP is believed to reduce the occurrence of overnight arrhythmias. Some studies indicate that CPAP improves blood flow, reducing the risk of heart failure.

  3. Lowers risk of stroke
  4. There is some research indicating that patients with OSA who use CPAP reduces risk of stroke, which could be because it lowers blood pressure. However, more research is required to understand how stroke and CPAP therapy are related.

  5. Less sleepiness during the day
  6. Since sleep apnea reduces the amount of time spent sleeping at night due to disruptions, it causes sleepiness during the day. Sometimes, patients with sleep apnea have excessive daytime sleepiness, where symptoms persist for 3+ months. Often, patients who use CPAP have decreased sleepiness during the day and research indicates that up to 75% of individuals who use CPA resolve their symptoms.

    Reduces risk of car accidents

     

    Improves mental health

     

    Patients who have untreated sleep apnea are at an increased risk for mental health issues, including irritability, depression, moodiness, anxiety, and other mental health problems. However, using CPAP can reduce these symptoms. However, more research is needed to confirm and understand these effects.

Reduces snoring
The most common symptom of OSA is snoring. Unfortunately, most people who have OSA are unaware that they are snoring- but it can disrupt individuals who sleep in the same room or bed as someone with OSA.

Since CPAP keeps airways open, those who use CPAP to treat OSA don’t snore as much- if at all.
CPAP alternatives for treating sleep apnea
According to experts, you may be able to make a few lifestyle changes to get your mild sleep apnea under control, such as:
Lose weight

According to research, approximately half of patients with sleep apnea are overweight. If you are overweight, it’s possible that you have extra tissue in your throat that causes issues with breathing. Your medical provider may recommend that you lose a few pounds to improve your symptoms.
Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills
Both of these substances can decrease muscle tone in the back of the throat, which can cause disruptions in air flow.
Change your sleep position
If you lie on your back, you may find it easier to breathe. One way to avoid rolling over is to put two tennis balls into a tube sock and pin it to your pajamas.
Quit smoking
Smoking increases swelling in your upper respiratory tract, which can worsen sleep apnea and snoring.
Treat allergies
Nasal allergies cause the tissues in your airways to swell, which makes them narrow- ultimately making it harder to breathe. You should consult with your medical professional bout how to get them under control.

Reasons to Treat Sleep Apnea without CPAP

In order to properly evaluate something, you must also take a look at some of the most common disadvantages, or side effects, associated with CPAP therapy for sleep apnea:

Air swallowing/aerophagia

One of the most common side effects of CPAP therapy is air swallowing. This condition is bad enough alone but can lead to other issues such as abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, and burping.

Nasal congestion

Nasal or sinus congestion is another common side effect of CPAP. This issue can be annoying and persistent. CPAP therapy causes issues with humidification of the air, causing nasal congestion because there’s not enough moisture in the nasal passages, which can sometimes lead to dryness, nosebleed, persistent runny nose, irritation, and burning.

Headache/ear pressure

While CPAP therapy is supposed to resolve headaches in those with sleep apnea, it may also cause headaches in patients who didn’t have them before. CPAP is also known to cause ear pressure in some patients who didn’t have it before.

Eye irritation

Eye irritation and other ocular health issues are also frequent in patients who use a CPAP machine to treat their sleep apnea. This is typically due to air leakage around the mask or the vents on the machine.

Skin marks/rashes

Perhaps the most common issue with CPAP therapy are marks, irritation, and rashes on the skin. These issues vary in severity and if treated right away, typically clear up quickly- but in some cases may be persistent and require professional intervention.

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