What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is when you literally stop breathing for a short while in your sleep. It may be for only a second or two or can last as long as a few minutes. It usually happens several or even hundreds of times through the night and is the leading cause of daytime sleepiness in North America.
Why does it happen? There are two culprits. The most common reason is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which as the name suggests is caused by an obstructed airway. The airway collapses, causing shallow or stopped breathing. The signature and startling snort/snore as the sleeper come out of it is the trademark of obstructive sleep apnea.
The second type is called central sleep apnea and is caused by the part of your brain that controls your breathing muscles sending the wrong signals. Central Sleep Apnea is much less common and isn’t typically connected to snoring.
Why is it dangerous? Well aside from the obvious, that you may stop breathing for a relatively extended period of time, it leads to a less restful sleep and less oxygen reaches the brain. Because you aren’t getting all the benefits of a good night sleep it tends to be connected to heart disease, fatigue, diabetes, depression, headaches, and ADHD.
What is especially unique, is there is no way of knowing you have it, unless a family member or bedmate tells you. It is extremely difficult for a doctor to diagnose as there is no test for it, and it isn’t practical for them to observe you sleep.
Men are at much greater risk than women, with overweight men at the greatest risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Other risk factors include being over 40, genetics, Gastroesophageal reflux, and nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems.
So what can you do about it? Living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight are two of the best ways to help sleep apnea. Dealing with allergies and respiratory issues are other strategies to help improve your breathing at night and achieve a more restful night’s sleep. In the event of a deviated septum working with your doctor to discuss medical procedures which may help might be your best option.
Because sleep apnea is very difficult to diagnose if you don’t sleep with a partner who notifies you regularly stop breathing in the middle of the night, self-monitoring of how you sleep might be one of your best approaches to identifying it. If you do wake up in the morning finding yourself tired and not refreshed, it may be worth speaking with your doctor to see if you can get to the bottom of it. Improving your sleep will improve so many of your body’s systems and it is worth putting in the time and effort to get it right.
Can a natural fibre mattress help? Potentially. If you struggle with allergy issues or chemical sensitivities which are contributing to obstructive sleep apnea, a natural mattress may be of assistance with alleviating these symptoms. Central sleep apnea is an issue with the nervous system and thus most likely independent of environmental conditions.
Sleep is critical to your physical, mental and emotional health, which is why we think that anything getting in the way of a good night’s sleep should be tackled head-on. There is a good chance that if you have sleep apnea it can be improved, and we think the investment to figure it out is well worth it.