get the sleep of your dreams

Get the Sleep of Your Dreams

After years of being together, you and your partner sleep in separate rooms. But it’s not for any other reason than: He snores. So. Loud.

If this is you, you're not alone. More than 12 million people in the United States have sleep apnea which often includes loud snoring, moments of silence and gasps for air. Besides interfering with your night-time cuddling, sleep apnea is bad for your loved one’s health.

Virtua sleep medicine specialist, Thanuja Hamilton, MD, shares some great information so that your partner – and you – can get a better night’s sleep, together.

What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

OSA occurs when the upper airway is completely or partially blocked during sleep. When this happens, the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the airway. Breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp, snort, body jerk or simply continuance of snoring. Your partner may or may not be aware of this, and most often has no idea.

These episodes can interfere with sleep. They also can reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs and cause irregular heart rhythms.

What are the symptoms?

Besides the snoring, gasps and snorts, there are other signs of sleep apnea.

They include:

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, depression or irritability
  • Night sweats
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Palpitations
  • Acid reflux at night
  • Insomnia including difficulty staying asleep
  • Frequent nighttime urination

Are you at risk?

Dr. Hamilton described several factors that put your partner at an increased risk for OSA:

  • Excess weight
  • Neck circumference larger than 17 inches in men and 16 inches in women
  • Enlarged tonsils, adenoids, tongue, uvula (that little punching bag in the back of your throat), a low-lying palate or a small or recessed jaw
  • Over age 60
  • Gender, men are twice as likely to have OSA (the risk for women is the same after menopause)
  • Family history
  • Race, as its more likely to develop in African-Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders
  • Nasal or sinus abnormalities such as deviated septum
  • Use of muscles relaxants/sedatives such as benzodiazepines or alcohol
  • Use of nicotine

Other possible health risks

The Centers for Disease Control reports that sleep insufficiency has been linked to an increase in chronic health disorders like hypertension and depression, increased mortality, and lower productivity and quality of life.

Other health risks include:

  • Heart disease
  • Insulin resistance
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (such as atrial fibrillation)
  • Stroke
  • Headaches

What can be done to improve OSA?

There are things that you can do and ways that a doctor can help you to improve sleep apnea. If you are overweight, begin by eating smart and exercising. Sometimes, weight loss is enough to cure sleep apnea.

A doctor can also prescribe non-surgical interventions that prevent your airway from being blocked:

  • Oral appliance
  • Disposable devices in the nostrils
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy

When other therapies don’t help, surgical procedures are available.

Is there an app for that?

Of course there is! In fact, here are several:

  • SnoreLab and Dream Talk record your snoring to give you an idea of its pattern, which is most likely worse on your back and during REM sleep.
  • Stop Snore! detects when you start snoring and emits pre-programmed sounds to drown out the snoring noise.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Screener takes into account demographics, physical characteristics and symptoms to determine your risk for OSA.
While these apps can be informative and fun, they do not replace the medical advice of your doctor. Dr. Hamilton encourages you to consult a sleep specialist and have a sleep study performed to get properly diagnosed. 

Updated July 5, 2016

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