If you're feeling sleepy, moody or irritable, you may be suffering from sleep apnea
Sleep apnea – a disorder that causes your breathing to stop repeatedly while you sleep – is believed to affect more than seven million Canadians.
During sleep apnea, blood oxygen levels are reduced, CO2 levels rise and sleep is disturbed, as the sleeper must wake to resume breathing. The strain on the body over time can have both physical and psychological consequences such as headaches, depression, anxiety and hypertension.
According to the BC Lung Association, weight loss, exercise, talking to your doctor about the medications you are on, reducing your intake of alcohol and caffeine, and quitting smoking can help.
But what about all those infomercials that claim they can cure sleep apnea? Perhaps, rather surprisingly, Dr. Menn Biagton from the BC Lung Association says they shouldn’t be dismissed completely.
“It depends on the severity of the sleep apnea,” Dr. Biagton told Wellness Matters. “I wouldn’t write them off quite yet. For some people wearing a shirt with a tennis ball attached that will prevent you from sleeping on your back can work, for others a mouth guard that will correct your airways may help.”
She adds that obesity has also been linked to sleep apnea.
Before you decide to explore the possible options, Dr. Biagton advises that you visit your doctor who will be able to diagnose the severity of your sleep apnea by conducting a sleep study.
While most sleep apnea is reported by a spouse, if you are living alone it could be harder to detect. Here are some classic symptoms:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Morning headache
- Irritability or mood changes
- Poor concentration or memory loss
- Lowered sex drive
- Falling asleep while driving
- Worsening cardiac disease