Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to serious health problems, so it’s important to get diagnosed if you think you have it. Sleep apnea is a common cause of daytime sleepiness and disruption in your breathing pattern while you sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common problem that affects a person’s breathing during sleep, during which air cannot flow normally into the lungs. OSA occurs due to an obstruction in the upper airway that prevents breathing for several seconds or minutes at a time. The obstruction can be caused by excess tissue in your throat or by relaxed muscles in your throat that collapse inward and block the airway.
This causes three major problems:
- Snoring : If you snore, you may have mild or severe OSA. Even if you don’t snore every night, you may still have OSA because it’s common for people with OSA to stop breathing many times during sleep without making any noise.
- Daytime drowsiness : Breathing pauses disrupt normal patterns of sleep and reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can leave you feeling tired and unable to concentrate during the day.
- Morning headaches : A lack of oxygen and overnight swelling of tissues around your brain can cause headaches as soon as you wake up.
Because OSA occurs when things get in the way of breathing, it can be made worse by sleeping on an incline or in positions that allow for extra neck relaxation. This includes sleeping on your side, stomach or back. Even certain mattresses can be problematic for people with OSA.
People with this condition are often advised to sleep on their side with a pillow propping up their head at an angle of 30 to 45 degrees. This position keeps the airway open while still allowing for normal breathing.