sleep care

Sleep Apnea

Treating & managing sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is an extreme form of snoring that happens when an individual’s airway narrows or fully closes during sleep.

As we sleep, muscles in the throat relax. In some people, this causes tissue at the back of the throat to narrow or block the airway. When the airway is blocked many times during a night of sleep, leading to pauses or shallow breaths and repeated awakenings, the condition is called sleep apnea.

In someone with severe sleep apnea, the airway may become blocked hundreds of times per night. These pauses can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

When breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep. This could be why, the next day, you’re falling asleep at a 10 a.m. meeting, even after what felt like a full night’s rest.

Sleep apnea & chronic disease

Sleep apnea does more than make you sleepy. It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Untreated sleep apnea can also lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, erectile dysfunction, depression and hypertension.

Men are more likely to have sleep apnea. For women, the risk of experiencing sleep apnea increases if they are overweight and after menopause.

Sleep apnea & weight: Perpetuating the cycle

When you gain weight, you gain it everywhere, including the tongue. Your airway, however, doesn’t change in size. If you gain too much weight, your tongue gets bigger, which can block the airway and lead to sleep apnea and related sleep loss.

When you lose sleep, your body releases hunger hormones that make you crave salty, sweet and fatty foods. These cravings often lead to weight gain, which can contribute to sleep apnea and worsen your sleep —perpetuating the cycle.