Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Over 30% of Americans suffer from insomnia. If you fall into this group, then you probably understand the following problems:
- You can never get comfortable in your bed.
- Anything before 11 a.m. is way too early.
- You don’t understand people who can sleep anywhere.
- You’re always tired.
- The occasional 2 a.m. meal is your friend.
- You feel drowsy when driving.
- What day is it? They all sort of blur together.
- Your alarm goes off just as you fall asleep.
- There is no chance of sleeping if the sun is out.
- Even sleeping pills don’t work.
- You may be proud of the fact that you require very little sleep.
- Naps either don’t work or have you out for HOURS.
- You are all too familiar with tossing and turning.
- 24-hour stores and restaurants were made with you in mind.
- You have seen far too many terrible infomercials.
- You are the person who posts on social media or responds to email at 3 a.m.
- You have great math skills from constantly adding up how many hours of sleep you will get if you fall asleep now.
- You’ve seen your fair share of sunrises – from still being awake, not waking up early.
- You’re never asleep and never really awake.
If you can relate to these things, you’re in good company. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to determine the cause of your insomnia. Oftentimes, people have trouble sleeping because of another underlying health problem. One such problem is sleep apnea – a disorder in which there are pauses in breathing while sleeping.
Sleep apnea is more than just waking up constantly in the night. It can actually pose several other health issues. Here are some of the dangers of sleep apnea:
- High blood pressure: When you constantly wake up in the middle of the night, it causes your hormones to go into overdrive, which can, in turn, cause high blood pressure. Low blood-oxygen levels may also contribute.
- Heart disease: Low oxygen or the stress of constant waking up can be hard on your heart. Stroke and atrial fibrillation are often associated with apnea because the disrupted oxygen flow complicates the brain’s regulation of blood flow in your arteries and brain.
- Type-2 diabetes: Though no direct correlation has ever been found, 80% of diabetics also suffer from apnea. Obesity is a risk factor for both diabetes and sleep apnea; about two-thirds of those with sleep apnea are overweight. Sleep deprivation has also been known to cause insulin resistance, which can contribute to the development of diabetes.
- Weight gain: Gaining weight increases your risk of sleep apnea, but sleep apnea could also lead to weight gain. Apnea impairs the endocrine system causing the release of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you crave carbohydrates and sweets. Being tired also slows down your metabolism, which can contribute to weight gain.
- Asthma: People who have been treated for apnea are found to have fewer asthma attacks than those who have not been treated.
- Acid reflux: While there is currently no proof that they are directly related, many who suffer from apnea also have acid reflux.
- Car accidents: Because sleep apnea often causes sleep deprivation, those affected by it have an increased risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. In fact, people with sleep apnea are five times more likely to have car accidents than those without it!
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest you see a sleep specialist. Typically sleep specialists will recommend CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure – as your treatment.
CPAP treatment uses a machine that has three main parts:
1) A mask that straps over your nose or nose and mouth,
2) A tube that connects the mask to the machine, and
3) A motor that blows air into the tube.
CPAP blows air into your airways to help keep them open while sleeping. The machine is small, lightweight and mostly silent. CPAP is usually the best treatment for sleep apnea; however, it can be expensive. Talk to your doctor to discuss other treatments if CPAP is not a viable option for you.
If you experience any other problems accompanying your sleep apnea, such as diabetes or heart disease, talk to your doctor about the best way to treat those problems. Simply correcting the sleep apnea may not be enough to fix everything.
Whatever the cause of your insomnia, it is important to get treated since sleep is so important to your health. Many of the health issues associated with sleep apnea can also be associated with other sleep disorders. If you are having difficulty sleeping at night, talk to your doctor or see a sleep specialist to help fix the problem before it gets worse.
Have you been diagnosed with sleep apnea? How has treatment helped you?