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Improve The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

IMPROVE THE SYMPTOMS OF SLEEP APNEA

Nancy K.

Last updated: 25.11.2020 5 Min.

Sleep apnea is a worldwide health problem, affecting about 4-5% of men and 2% of women, with many devastating side effects on the health of those affected.

In the short-term, sleep apnea can lead to drowsiness, which can affect your social and professional life.

In the long-term, sleep apnea can affect the cardiovascular system.

While there is no simple cure for sleep apnea, there are various things you can do to help improve the symptoms of sleep apnea and benefit from a better quality of life.

We’ve spoken to physiotherapist Caroline Rolland to help you and to answer any questions you may have.

We also link to a few resources that can help you discover if you have sleep apnea and help you get a better quality of sleep overall.

Physiotherapist to improve symptoms of sleep apnea
  • Overview
  • What is sleep apnea?
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Health consequences
  • Seeking help
  • Treatments
  • Physiotherapy
  • Physical activity
  • Advice
  • Conclusion

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a respiratory sleep disorder characterised by pauses in breathing (minimum of 10 seconds) that can repeated several times per hour of sleep.

We call these apnea or respiratory pauses.

Respiratory pauses can severely impact the quality of sleep and quality of life.

What causes sleep apnea?

Mostly, sleep apneas are linked to the relaxation of the muscles of the tongue and the pharynx, which block the passage of air.

Being overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes, a history of familial SAS, and age are recognised risk factors in adults.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

The person struggling with sleep apnea is usually not the first to notice.

Usually, it is the partner who first notices breathing pauses, which can also be accompanied by snoring and restless sleep.

The sufferer of sleep apnea will usually only experience daytime symptoms, such as a feeling of fatigue upon waking up, irritability, a lack of concentration, and increased fatigue despite feeling that one has slept well.

Respiratory pauses lead to a decrease in heart rate, which then accelerates when you resume breathing.

These heart rhythm disturbances lead to fatigue of the heart muscle (myocardium), which, over time, promote the onset of serious pathologies.

There is also a decrease in the supply of oxygen in the blood.

Common symptoms and/or side effects of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Fatigue throughout the day, despite spending enough time in bed
  • Episodes of gasping for breath while sleeping
  • Startled awakenings with a feeling of suffocation
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering
  • Mood disorders
  • Headaches, especially in the morning

What are the health consequences of poor sleep?

To live a healthy life, you have to sleep well. This doesn’t just depend on the amount of sleep but also on the quality of sleep.

We’ve all experienced nights of bad sleep. A hearty meal, a big night out, or a stressful meeting the next day can all lead to poor sleep.

Poor or bad sleep can refer to a number of things, including lack of sleep (insomnia), excess sleep (hypersomnia), or abnormal behaviours while sleeping (parasomnias).

Disorders are quantified according to their mode of appearance and their frequency.

Sleep disorders will all have different consequences but, regardless, they are symptomatic of a disfunction in the sleep cycle.

Insomnia, for example, is a very common sleep disorder. It has numerous short-term and long-term consequences, including affecting satiety and appetite, increasing the risk of obesity, respiratory disorders, arterial hypertension, and more.

In general, bad sleep has a direct effect on performance and it leads to difficulties in concentration, decreased alertness, irritability, and, in some cases, depression.

In short, poor sleep has dire consequences on your health and your quality of life.

It’s important to re-learn how to sleep well.

STRUGGLING WITH INSOMNIA? TRY THE SLEEPHUBS COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY PROGRAMME

When should you seek help?

Apneas and micro-awakening are rarely felt by patients, which often leads to a delay in seeking help.

80% of patients are unaware that they are sick.

It is necessary to consult with a practitioner as soon as a partner notices the respiratory pauses or at the onset of symptoms, such as increased fatigue, irritability, or lack of concentration.

These can seriously compromise professional and social activities.

Your attending physician will be able to refer you to a specialist.

Not sure if sleep apnea is a problem for you? Try the SleepHubs Apnea Home Sleep Test, a portable diagnostic device that enables accurate assessment of sleep-disordered breathing.

What is the best treatment for sleep apnea?

Assisted ventilation using a positive pressure device is, to date, the only effective treatment of sleep apnea.

There is no drug treatment.

But other factors do play a role and it is important to manage causes and effects of obesity, cardiovascular problems, and environmental factors (sedentary lifestyles, stress, smoking, etc.).

Is it possible to decrease sleep apnea with the help of a physiotherapist?

A physiotherapist or specialist speech therapist cannot replace the treatments implemented by a medical team but working with a physiotherapist can help improve the severity of sleep apnea and its effects.

This is not only limited to lingual gymnastics.

Usually, physiotherapy care involved a personalised training programme for regular physical exercise.

Sporty, active people generally enjoy a better quality of sleep than sedentary people.

Sleep apnea is also often common in overweight people.

Physical exercise and a regulated diet will work together to allow for better management of the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Not all physiotherapists are trained to assist with sleep apnea. Your attending physician will be able to refer you.

What is the role of physical activity on sleep?

It is common to hear that physical activity before bedtime can lead to difficulties falling asleep.

On the flip side, exercising in the four hours before going to bed is as good for the head as it is for the body.

A study carried out in people without health problems showed that the percentage of time spent in deep sleep was higher following sporting activity than without.

The modern, more sedentary population has shown an overall decrease in physical activity, which has led to an increase in obesity, diabetes, etc.

The correlation between physical activity and the quality of sleep is quite clear, re-establishing better cycles between day and night.

With physical activity, test subjects demonstrated an easier transition from sleep to wakefulness, better motivation throughout the day, and the desire to be active.

The balance between sport and sleep is essential as one affects the other.

Poor quality sleep makes you less efficient and increases fatigue by inducing poor muscle recovery, risking stiffness, inflammation, injuries, and etc.

However, there is no consensus on what sports activity to practise in the evening, at what intensity, for how long, or how often.

The only certainty is the quality of awakening and lessened fatigue the following day.

If we are in good shape and regularly practise sport in the evenings, our sleep will not be negatively affected.

READ 5 RITUALS TO HELP YOU GET A BETTER NIGHT'S SLEEP

Do you have any other comments or advice for our readers?

If in doubt, don’t wait, consult!

Conclusion

Thank you very much, Caroline, for answering our questions.

Caroline Rolland is a physiotherapist based in Paris. She has extensive experience in her field and has been working intently with athletes over numerous years.

Nancy K.

Yoga-loving nature fan (when the sun shines) with a knack for all things health & wellness. Strangely obsessed with tacos. 

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