Do You Stop Breathing While Sleeping? Talk To Your Doctor Today!

If you frequently stop breathing while sleeping, in your own interest, you should immediately talk to your physician as this could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. It is one of the worst types of sleep disorders marked by brief and repeated pauses in breathing. The term ‘apnea’ in sleep apnea means a pause in breathing that lasts for about 10 seconds or more. Depending on the severity, an individual can stop breathing while sleeping 5 to 30 times in an hour.

What happens when you stop breathing while sleeping? 

First of all, it causes disturbed and fragmented sleep. Secondly, the breathing pauses result in paucity of oxygen supply to the brain. The combined effect of the two often leads to hypertension, heart disease and mood and memory problems. We all know what happens when we experience disturbed sleep: excessive daytime drowsiness that over a period of time starts to interfere with our professional as well as personal lives. Over and above jeopardizing quality of life, fragmented sleep increases the risk of motor accidents as well as physical injury.

Sleep problems are common in this country

While about 70 million American adults  (40% of the population) suffer from chronic sleep problems, 47 million of them are suffering their various consequences because they are not meeting their required sleep needs. While 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, perhaps the bigger tragedy is that over 50% of patients with sleep disorders remain undiagnosed and untreated.

What are the possible causes? 

One can stop breathing during sleep for a variety of reasons. A few common ones are:

–           Excessive weight is an acknowledged predictor of this condition. Research has shown its increased occurrence with increase of BMI, neck girth, and other body measurements. Extra fat tissues make the airway narrow causing breathing obstruction.

–          Alcohol consumption.

–          Some of the causes include nasal obstruction, improper functioning of thyroid gland, and smoking, use of sedatives.

–          Throat and tongue muscles blocking the airway during sleep

–          Muscles of the tongue and uvula are large in comparison to the airway opening.

–          Wrong sleeping position. Sleeping too much on the back can cause airway obstruction and pauses in breathing.

–          Advancing age can weaken the throat muscles making them flaccid and vulnerable to collapse during sleep.

 How to prevent and treat the condition? 

There are a few simple steps that can help you get better sleep so that you no longer stop breathing while sleeping:

–          Lose weight

–          Quit alcohol and tobacco

–          Sleep more on the sides

–          Raise pillow height

–          Use nasal sprays or allergy medicines

Even after taking such simple steps you continue to stop breathing while sleeping, consult a doctor, who is likely to recommend Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. This therapy aims to keep the airway open by providing artificial ventilation by pumping in pre-measured pressurized air directly into the lungs.

If the doctor links the problem to any anatomical defect like deviated septum, etc, surgery to clear the nasal passage and rectify the septum position may be advised.

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