A Patient's Guide
Tips for Better Sleep
- Go to bed only when sleepy
- Sleep seven hours and rise at the same time
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool
- Eat a light and early dinner
- Make a to-do list 30 minutes prior to bed
- Avoid caffeine after lunch
- Avoid eating and exercising prior to bedtime
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine prior to bedtime
- Avoid stress encounters prior to bedtime
- Herbal teas and a warm bath can be helpful
- Exercises increases deep sleep, but not prior to bedtime
Snoring is to obstructive sleep apnea as thunder is to lightning. They may, but not always, appear together. One may be just an annoyance, but the other may be serious trouble. If our throat structures are enlarged and/or jaw and tongue relax too much during sleep, the airway is partially or totally obstructed or blocked. As air from the nose or mouth flows by the blockage, these structures vibrate, causing the familiar sound of snoring. Noise from snoring often increases with age, weight gain, and, if more of the airway is obstructed, snoring can be loud enough to wake you or others several times during the night and can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Apnea is a serious disorder in which the snorer stops breathing causing a lack of oxygen to the brain, heart, and blood during sleep.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA
With obstructive sleep apnea, muscles of the soft palate at the base of the tongue and the uvula (the small, conical, fleshy tissue hanging from the soft palate) relax and sag, obstructing the airway, making breathing labored and noisy. Collapse of the airway walls blocks breathing entirely.
When breathing periodically stops, a listener hears the snoring broken by pauses. As pressure to breathe builds, muscles of the diaphragm work harder. Sleep is then temporarily interrupted, sometimes only for seconds. This, in turn, activates throat muscles and "un-corks" the airway. The effort is akin to slurping a drink through a straw that is stuck in a lump of ice cream. A listener hears deep gasping as breathing starts. With each gasp, the sleeper awakens, but so briefly and incompletely that he does not remember doing so in the morning.
Someone with obstructive sleep apnea may stop breathing for ten seconds or longer – dozens, even hundreds of times each night.
The following is a sleep quiz to help you rate the quality of your sleep patterns.
If you noted three or more checked items, you should ask your doctor or dentist about sleep apnea.
WHAT TREATMENT OFFERS
Most people with sleep apnea benefit from both general measure and specific treatments.
- Lose excess weight
- Get regular exercise
- Avoid alcohol, heavy meals and medications that make you drowsy
When symptoms are more severe and these measures don't solve the problem, other treatment options include:
Nasal CPAP (continuous, positive airway pressure). Pressure from an air compressor forces air through nasal passages and into the airway under gentle pressure, keeping it open and allowing the person to sleep and breathe normally.
Surgery may be able to correct physical abnormalities that cause sleep apnea. However, there is not an easy surgical solution. Considering the invasiveness of surgical solution, a failure can be devastating to the patient. Initial surgical success is 50% - 70%, but often fails with time. This is irreversible.
Oral appliance therapy. A very effective way of treating snoring and obstructive sleep apnea for many patients.