The Reality of Life with Sleep Apnea

The Reality of Life with Sleep Apnea

Everybody wants to get a good night’s sleep. It’s easier for some than others, but if you suffer with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you may feel like the notion of rest is unreachable. The professionals at Laguna Family Dentistry can help make a diagnosis and put you on the path toward treatment. If you’ve recently received your diagnosis, here are a few things you’ll come to learn about the condition.

Lifestyle changes

While it may be challenging, sleep can be obtained if some lifestyle changes are made.

  • Positional therapy: Avoid sleeping on your back (known as the supine position), which allows your tongue and throat muscles to relax more easily and fall backwards into the airway. This blocks it and interrupts sleep. If your condition is mild, changing sleeping positions (such as to sleeping on your side) can relieve some obstructions. Additionally, you can try raising the head of the bed (about four inches). This has been shown to help reduce snoring and mild OSA.
  • Diet and exercise: Patients who have OSA and are overweight should attempt to lose some weight, which will decrease the fatty tissue built up in the throat and increase air flow. Exercise should become a part of your routine at least most days and certain foods should be avoided before bed. These include red meat, celery, dark chocolate, and spicy foods. Heavy meals should also be avoided within three hours of bedtime.
  • Smoking, alcohol, and drugs: Smoke is an irritant that causes inflammation and increases swelling in the sensitive tissues in the throat and lungs. Reducing or quitting smoking and alcohol consumption can greatly relieve certain issues associated with OSA. Alcohol should at least be avoided three to four hours before bedtime.

The machine/mask

Though it can be difficult to sleep comfortably next to a machine while wearing a mask, a CPAP machine may be the key to good sleep. Studies estimate that 30-50% of CPAP users do not like the treatment, but by taking a few simple steps, you can avoid becoming part of this statistic. First, it’s recommended to physically go to a sleep center or clinic to try on the masks available. That way, you can find one that is most comfortable for you. Wearing the mask will take an adjustment period, but you should find that, over time, you’ll learn tips and tricks that make it easier. For example, putting the mask on before starting the machine can help seal it better. OSA patients are encouraged not to give up on their CPAP treatment.

Traveling with sleep apnea

Receiving a diagnosis of OSA does not prevent you from continuing to explore the world; you’ll just have to take a few extra steps before leaving home. Travel-specific therapy machines are available that adhere to FAA regulations. Be prepared to pack your machine as a carry on and remember to bring your prescription with you. You may also want to check with the airlines about on-board use and electrical outlets before taking flights. Even off-the-grid locations will still be accessible for hunting, camping, fishing, etc. Your OSA does not have to tie you down.

If you suffer from OSA, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Not only is there a large population of Americans who have the condition (an estimated 12-25 million), there are several support groups available to you. Additionally, the professionals at Laguna Family Dentistry in Laguna Beach, CA are available to assist you as needed.