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4 Questions to Help You Better Understand Sleep Apnea

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Are you feeling very tired and irritable? Do you have difficulty concentrating or feel suffocated during the night? You may suffer from sleep apnea. To summarize the problem, here’s a simple Q & A:

L’apnée du sommeil

1. What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a health problem that makes you involuntarily stop breathing for up to 10 seconds during sleep. Sleep apnea sufferers can stop breathing many times a night.

This condition is mainly caused by the relaxation of tongue and throat muscles, which stops air from circulating and makes breathing impossible. A rare cause is poor brain function, causing the brain to stop sending signals to tell your body to breathe.

2. How to recognize sleep apnea?

Although sleep apnea sufferers may not be aware of the problem, some symptoms can be caused by poor quality sleep, itself brought on by sleep apnea. Here are a few examples:

  • Severe fatigue
  • Snoring
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Memory disorders
  • Declining work performance
  • Feeling of suffocation at night

If you think you suffer from sleep apnea, you should talk to your doctor, who will be able to confirm the diagnosis. It’s also important to treat sleep apnea to avoid long-term effects on your health and well-being. Sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes, and depression, as well as fatigue-related road accidents and work injuries.

3. Who is at risk?

Anyone can develop sleep apnea. However, the following factors indicate a higher risk:

  • Male gender
  • Age (over 40)
  • Obesity
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Large neck (more than 17 in. around in men and more than 16 in. in women)
  • Receding chin
  • Large tonsils
  • Nasal congestion
  • Smoking
  • Regular alcohol consumption

Some medications can also increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, particularly sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist for advice.  

4. What treatments are available?

If you suffer from sleep apnea, your doctor can recommend various treatments, based on the severity of the problem. You can also reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea by adopting good lifestyle habits: 

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Consuming alcohol in moderation
  • Stop smoking
  • Exercising
  • Reducing caffeine consumption
  • Adopting a regular sleep schedule
  • Sleeping on your side rather than on your back

Your doctor may recommend what is known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This treatment consists of wearing a special mask connected to a device that pushes air into your nose and throat. This keeps your airways open and prevents interruptions in your breathing. There are also dental appliances that can help treat sleep apnea. You place them over your teeth to keep your tongue and jaw to the front, which prevents them from blocking your airways. Certain types of surgery can also be used to treat symptoms of sleep apnea.


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