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Sleep Apnea: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Sleep apnea is a somewhat common condition in which normal breathing actually stops during sleep. These moments of apnea can happen many times while you’re asleep. My doctor informed me that the disruption in my breathing could be a sign of an issue regarding the signals in my brain. Just for a brief moment, the brain can literally ‘forget’ to tell the muscles to breathe.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Photo Courtesy of David Goehring

Photo Courtesy of David Goehring

In many cases, certain underlying health disorders are the culprit of sleep apnea like being overweight. That’s originally why I visited my doctor; but later discovered I had sleep apnea. From what I understand, this is quite common in obese people since excess weight can enlarge the tissues in and around a person’s airways. During an episode of sleep apnea, the brainstem doesn’t properly signal the muscles that tell you to breath. Because the brainstem is connected to the spinal cord, any medical disorders that affect the brainstem, heart, or spinal cord can lead to sleep apnea.

Here are some examples of conditions related to sleep apnea:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
  • Radiation treatments or surgery on the spine
  • Cervical spine arthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease (an age-associated deterioration of key nerve systems that impact muscle control, balance, and overall movement)
  • Congestive heart failure

Symptoms

The basic symptoms of sleep apnea include brief periods when your breathing stops during sleep. For some people, they show signs of extreme shallow breathing rather than actually stopping. The lack of air itself is what caused me to frequently wake up through the night. Obviously, this makes me very tired the next day. The sleep apnea episodes cause insomnia. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Speech pattern changes
  • Changes in the voice
  • Overall weakness throughout the body

Diagnosis

My doctor ordered a polysomnography, which is a sleep study test that’s used to diagnose sleep apnea. During a polysomnography test, your breathing patterns, lung function, heart rate, brain activity, and oxygen levels are monitored.

Treatment

The first step in treating sleep apnea is managing any underlying medical issues that may be causing it in the first place. The regulation of air pressure and oxygen supplementation during sleeping are both effective in treating people who deal with sleep apnea. Some of these treatments include:

ASV (Adaptive Servo-Ventilation)

ASV monitors your breathing patterns while you sleep. The innovative system ‘remembers’ your patterns. The system is pressurized and works to help normalize your breathing patterns in order to prevent any future episodes of sleep apnea.

BPAP (Bi-level Positive Air Pressure)

BPAP regulates the air pressure at a higher level once you inhale and back down to a lower level once you exhale.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure)

CPAP provides a continuous source of pressure in the airways when sleeping. While sleeping at night, a mask is worn over your mouth and nose that delivers a continuous stream of pressurized air.

Outlook

For most people struggling with sleep apnea, they respond well to ongoing treatment. The benefits of sleep apnea treatment are varied based on the cause of the condition.

Pillow Options for People With Bad Backs or Necks

Neck and back pain are two of the most common ailments that people suffer from. These problems can be experienced by young and old people alike. Many of these instances of neck and back pain can be traced back to problems during sleep. When people sleep in awkward positions, it often contributes to these issues. My uncle was one of the people that woke up every morning with a stiff back and neck. He thought that he would just have to learn to live with the pain. However, I told him to test out some new pillows to see if that might solve the problem. To his surprise, a new pillow specifically designed to help the back and neck was exactly what he needed. Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of these pillows that are currently available:

Travelrest pillow

This pillow is ideal for people who do a lot of traveling and can never seem to have a restful sleep during their trip. This keeps your head from tilting over if you are trying to sleep in a sitting position. That type of tilting can put a lot of stress on your neck. It is easy to inflate to the desired amount of firmness or softness. It helps you to maintain good posture and avoid sudden jerky movements.

Talalay latex pillow

This is ideal for both side and back sleepers. Your neck and head will be kept cool by the ventilated foam. Because the pillow is four inches high, many people say it is a good pillow for someone with a large body who enjoys sleeping on their side.

Lumbar wedge pillow

This type of pillow is made by many manufacturers. As the name indicates, it is shaped like a wedge. This type of pillow can be used in two different ways. It can be used by people who need to sit at a desk all day at their job because it provides support to the lower back. There are also larger wedge pillows that can be used for sleeping. Their shape has been shown to reduce tossing and turning. It also enables people to get out of bed easier.

Cylinder pillows (also called a roll pillow)

This is another pillow that is produced by many companies, so a person will need to test out a few different ones to see which one they like best. You can find these pillows stuffed most frequently with either beans or foam. If a person uses them while sitting in a chair, they will provide support to the lumbar region of the back, where many people frequently experience pain. They can also be placed under your neck when you are sleeping to give your neck the amount of support it needs.

Selecting The Right Mattress For Your Body & Sleep Habits

Choosing the right mattress can make the difference between years of satisfactory sleep or endless nights trying to find a comfortable position. Your body type has a bearing on the type of mattress you should select for best support. Your personal sleep preferences should also be taken into account when selecting the right mattress for your need

Side, Stomach or Back Sleepers

Your sleep position is a significant factor in selecting a mattress. Ultimately, a good mattress should keep your spine in a straight alignment regardless of what position you take. However, many back sleepers find that a firm mattress offers the necessary support of the lower back. Side sleepers need a bit more “give” to allow them a comfortable position that still offers support. For these sleepers, a medium firmness is a good choice. If you sleep on your stomach, a soft mattress will make you fall into it face down too readily, causing a deep curve in the lower back and neck. Choose a medium firmness mattress to allow some support for both upper and lower body.

Broad Shoulders

Individuals who have broad shoulders and are side sleepers will probably prefer a mattress on the softer side. Too much pressure on the shoulders can be uncomfortable, so softer support can be a better choice. The right mattress can be especially important for those with shoulder problems. A firm mattress can allow too much pressure on the shoulder joint, leading to aches and pains upon waking in the morning.

Wide Hips

Similarly, those individuals with wide hips may find that a firm textured mattress places too much pressure on tender hipbones. Older people who are troubled by hip pain may find this particularly uncomfortable. Give considerable thought before committing to the purchase of a mattress. A store with a good return policy may be a good idea for people who may have difficulty finding the right firmness texture for their needs.

Weight Factors

Thin individuals can generally tolerate any thickness and firmness of mattress unless they have other health issues that may come into play. However, heavy individuals generally prefer firm mattresses that are over nine inches in thickness to avoid unnecessary pressure.

Mattress Accessories

Many consumers find that adding one of the mattress accessories that are available can help to make a mattress more comfortable for their particular body type. Padded mattress covers and mattress pads can additional softness when needed and can be removed when the sensitive body part improves. Buyers can choose from a wide variety of products that can help to raise the comfort level of their mattress for a better night’s sleep.

Beat Sleep Deprivation With 7 Natural Remedies

Are you having trouble falling asleep? Insomnia can cause many effects on the mind and body including depression, fatigue, mood swings, inability to focus, and increase in appetite. Before you reach for the over the counter sleep aid, keep in mind that experts caution sleeping pills are not always safe or effective. Here are seven natural ways to fall asleep fast:

Eat a snack

Eating a calming snack about 90 minutes before bed like 1/2 a bowl of oatmeal with slice banana or a bowl of low-fat ice cream can help the sleeping process. Choose a low protein, high carbohydrate snack that will allow your metabolism to slow before bed.

Take Valerian root

This natural supplement prompts your brain to produce neurotransmitters that make you sleepy.

Take a break

Give yourself a massage by rubbing lotion in circular motions on areas of muscle tightness in your body. This promotes healing and relaxation resulting in a blissful sleep.

Enjoy a nice soak

Soaking in a warm bath raises your body temperature, and the cool down experienced after getting out of the bath produces a calming sleepiness. Add Epsom salts or a soothing lavender oil to the bath for a spa like experience.

Bath Soak

Lavender

A lavender scented eye mask or pillow will help you fall asleep in no time. The scent from lavender oil enhances slow-wave sleep, the very deep slumber in which the heartbeat slows and muscles relax.

Herbal tea

Caffeine free chamomile tea is a warm, soothing drink to sip on before bed. It promotes relaxation and peace.

Herbal Tea

Do yoga

As a form of mind-quieting physical activity, yoga does wonders for relaxation. Also, studies show that those who exercise sleep more hours than those who do not exercise. Yoga is the best of both worlds allowing your body to break a sweat and stretch at the same time.

Does Hypoallergenic Bedding Really Work?

Around 20 million people in the US alone suffer from allergies to dust mites and other allergens. My children are two of them. They suffer from such symptoms as breathing problems, sneezing, and hives when they are exposed to certain allergens. Hypoallergenic bedding like mattress covers was one of the first items that my allergy specialist recommended for allergy management. A number of people wonder if hypoallergenic bedding works. I am here to answer that question for the allergy sufferers in the world: Hypoallergenic bedding is quite effective in allergy management for children and adults. It can create the perfect treatment plan when it is used in conjunction with other treatment methods.

What is Hypoallergenic Bedding?

Hypoallergenic bedding consists of items such a pillows and pillowcases, comforters, mattresses, sheets, covers and the like. Manufacturers create this special bedding with the intention of causing the least amount of allergic reactions from a sufferer. Most hypoallergenic bedding is made of synthetic material as opposed to down filled materials that cause allergic reactions. Some hypoallergenic bedding is made of vinyl because vinyl is a material that repels dust mite droppings. Dust mites are located everywhere, and their droppings cause allergic reactions because they settle in the sheets, pillows and covers.

Hypoallergenic Sheets

Hypoallergenic bedding works by creating a barrier between the allergic person and the dust mites. The special material works to reduce the amount of vapors and skin flakes on which dust mites thrive. Eventually, the dust mites die and decrease the person’s chances of getting ill. You can find hypoallergenic bedding in a wide variety of online and physical locations. Most carriers label their special bedding as hypoallergenic. Consumer reviews and comparisons can help you to locate the most successful products for allergies. I purchased my children’s bedding through an online allergy club.

Allergy Proofing the Room

For maximum results, you will want to allergy proof the room. Your additional efforts will fortify the effectiveness of the hypoallergenic bedding. One thing you can do to decrease the amount of dust mites in the room is frequently wash the bedding. You may want to run the bedding through a washer with hot water two times per week to minimize infestation. Replacing old carpeting can help to minimize dust mites. Over time, they become trapped in the carpet. Starting with new carpeting can provide a breath of refreshing air the allergic person. Area rugs are an excellent choice because they can be removed and cleaned with ease.

If you have curtains in the bedroom, you can decrease allergic reactions by installing shades or blinds that you can easily wipe down to remove the dust mites. Cleaning the blinds with bleach several times a week can help to combat those annoying critters. Additionally, dusting is an effective practice that you can perform at least once per month to keep down dust mites. If the allergies are severe, then you can increase your dusting efforts to twice per month or once per week. Hypoallergenic bedding does work wonderfully, but multiple efforts will help you even more.