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Risk Factors And Treatments For Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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If you wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air or if you snore loudly, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. This condition may heighten your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and daytime sleepiness.

While conservative treatments may help reduce the incidence and severity of your apnea, snoring surgery may be your only option for long-term results. Here are some risk factors and conservative treatment options you can try that may help reduce your symptoms while you are awaiting your appointment with a sleep medicine specialist to discuss the benefits of sleep apnea surgery:

Risk Factors 

One of the most common risk factors in the development of obstructive sleep apnea is being overweight. Obesity can lead to the accumulation of neck fat, which can put pressure on your trachea, obstructing your airway. Excess weight can also put pressure on your diaphragm if you sleep on you back, which can also complicate existing apnea and snoring.

Another risk factor is drinking alcohol or taking certain medications before bedtime. Alcohol, along with medications such as antihistamines, prescription pain relievers, sleeping pills, and medications used in the treatment of high blood pressure can relax the muscles of the back of your tongue.

When this happens, the back of your tongue can relax too much and slip backwards into your throat. This can severely block your airway, leading to snoring and episodes of breathing cessation. Reducing alcohol consumption and taking your medications hours before bedtime may help reduce your risk for airway obstruction. 

Temporary Treatment Options

While sleep apnea surgery should be considered to reduce your health risks, there are some temporary treatments you can try at home which may help. For example, sleeping on your side will help keep your airway open, reducing your risk for snoring and breathing interruptions while you sleep. Another method that may help you sleep better is managing your acid reflux disease.

Severe reflux can cause the tissues in your throat to swell and, in severe cases, can affect your sinuses. When this happens, your snoring may become severe and you may suffer from more apnea episodes when you sleep. If you have acid reflux disease, avoid trigger foods such as coffee, spicy foods, chocolate, mint, onions, garlic, and citrus fruit. Over-the-counter antacids may also help neutralize stomach acid so that is is less irritating to your throat tissue and less likely to contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. 

If you snore, experience daytime sleepiness, or wake up gasping for air, make an appointment with a sleep specialist. He or she will order a sleep study to determine if you have apnea. If you do, surgery for snoring may be an excellent treatment option that may improve your overall health.