Between your constant exhaustion during the day, your loud snoring at night (as your irritated spouse can attest to), and your frequent insomnia, you’re starting to believe you might have sleep apnea. Your first thought might be to look for some medication to help you sleep more soundly – but that’s probably a bad idea. Sleeping pills have their uses, but as you’ll soon learn, there’s a very good chance that they’ll just make sleep apnea worse.
What Happens During Sleep Apnea?
To understand the effects of sleeping pills on sleep apnea, it’s important to understand what the condition entails. The most common form of the disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the muscles and tissues in your mouth or throat relax and block the airway. This interrupts your breathing and forces you to briefly wake up to get oxygen; this can happen hundreds of times each night and prevent you from reaching the deeper, restorative stages of sleep. As a result, you may feel tired or irritable during the day. Also, your blood pressure will rise due to the lack of oxygen, which can eventually result in life-threatening cardiovascular problems.
How Do Sleeping Pills Worsen Sleep Apnea?
A sleeping pill is meant to help quiet the mind and relax the body. When you already have sleep apnea, this is a problem because the pill also affects the structures in your throat; if an airway that has already partially collapsed relaxes even further, your breathing could become even more obstructed, and your sleep apnea could worsen as a result. Thus, if you’re suffering from insomnia, it’s important to have a sleep study performed so that you can rule out sleep apnea right away. Otherwise, those over the counter sleep aids could easily do more harm than good.
What’s a Better Solution for Treating Sleep Apnea?
Luckily, anyone who wants to treat sleep apnea has a few different treatment options to consider. The most common solution is CPAP therapy, but if you have trouble sleeping with a loud machine and an uncomfortable mask, you can talk to a sleep expert about using oral appliance therapy instead. Oral appliances work by slightly adjusting the lower jaw so that your throat and airway remain open; they’re easy to use and are custom fitted to maximize comfort. Sometimes oral appliance therapy is combined with CPAP therapy depending on the severity of your case.
You can also treat sleep apnea by making a few lifestyle changes. For example, losing weight, staying away from alcohol, and sleeping on your side can all help you keep your airway open at night. However, you should always talk to a sleep expert for a proper diagnosis before trying any sort of treatment on your own. It’s important to choose a solution that leads to a good night’s sleep instead of an even more severe disorder!
About the Author
Dr. Dustin C. Lively is a native of Mangum who started practicing dentistry in 1997. After discovering that his dental knowledge could help people suffering from sleep apnea and study, he took advanced training courses to learn about oral appliance therapy. To schedule an appointment at his practice, EZ Sleep Solutions, visit his website or call (580) 782-2552.