October 10, 2010

Identifying Sleep Apnea – Part 2

Who can have sleep apnea? Anyone at any age can suffer from sleep apnea, whether they are young children to the elderly. Risk factors become important in both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

The risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include being overweight, a male, over the age of 65, black, Hispanic or a Pacific Islander, being related to someone who has sleep apnea, and a smoker. Other factors would be having a thick neck, deviated septum, receding chin, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. You must also include other medical factors that cause nasal congestion and blockage.

The risk factors for central sleep apnea can have many factors, but is most common in males and people over the age of 65. Central sleep apnea is often caused by serious illnesses like heart disease, stroke, neurological disease, and spinal or brain stem injury.

When diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are some things that you can do to lessen the problems with mild to moderate OSA. Lifestyle modifications are the biggest area to improve the condition. These include losing weight, quit smoking, avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, sedatives, avoid caffeine, heavy meals before going to bed, and maintaining regular sleep hours.

When going to bed, learn to sleep on your side as this will help keep your tongue from relaxing and obstructing your airway. Prevent yourself from rolling onto your back by having something at your back that is rigid enough to stop you. Some people are able to elevate their head with a foam wedge or by using a cervical pillow. If you have nasal problems, use a nasal dilator, saline spray, or breathing strips.

Many people do not use some aids that should be done. Throat exercises can be successful in reducing the severity of sleep apnea by strengthening the muscles in the airway making them less likely to collapse.

Some of the exercises you can try (I found the first the most helpful but try them for yourself) include pressing the tongue flat against the floor of mouth and brush top and sides with toothbrush. Repeat brushing movement 5 times, 3 times a day.

I found this very difficult - press length of tongue to roof of mouth and hold for 3 minutes a day. The next exercise is place finger into one side of mouth. Hold finger against cheek while pulling cheek muscle in at same time. Repeat 10 times then rest and alternate sides. Repeat sequence 3 times.

I have not tried this one - purse lips as if to kiss. Hold lips tightly together and move them up and to the right the up and to the left 10 times. Repeat sequence 3 times.

If nothing more this will strengthen your lungs, but it seems to help. Place lips on a balloon to inflate. Take a deep breath through your nose then blow out through your mouth to inflate balloon as much as possible. Repeat 5 times without removing balloon from mouth.

One exercise that also helped me is holding both hands together at the back and forming a V, take the thumbs and massage the jaw area starting at the back near the jaw hinge and pulling the thumbs forward in the soft area under the jaw. Start at the outside and work toward the center. Just use care not to depress the arteries at the side of the neck, stick to the underside of the jaw.

What ever you do, find out what works for you and give it a consistent trial and a chance to work. Even though I have severe obstructive, the most aid I have received is by sleeping on my side and using a strong back support to prevent me from turning on onto my back. I still use my VPAP machine to get the restful sleep I need.

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