Sleep apnea, also called obstructive sleep apnea, is a disorder that interrupts normal breathing during sleep.
* Heavy snoring
* Periods of not breathing
* Waking frequently during the night or experiencing fitful sleep
* Feeling sleepy or not well-rested during the day
How it affects your health
Depending on how often and for how long you stop breathing, sleep apnea can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. It affects both men and women, can occur at any age, and has been linked to an increased risk of fragmented sleep and restlessness, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Even mild sleep apnea can cause associated sleep disturbances, leading to depression, irritability, sexual problems and impaired learning and memory. Common factors linked to sleep apnea include being overweight or obese; having an anatomical abnormality in the nose, throat or elsewhere in the upper airway; use of certain medications, particularly sedatives; sleeping on your back; and using alcohol before bed.
Asking your doctor to order an overnight oximetry can be a good screening test to assess sleep apnea. This test occurs while sleeping at home. Note that the only true way to diagnose sleep apnea is the hospital-based testing, but the home test can help point you in the right direction.
How to help yourself
There are many options available to help address apnea, including lifestyle measures to lose weight and simple medical devices that can be worn at night to keep the airways open. Dr. Weil recommends these tactics for tackling sleep apnea:
* If you’re overweight, lose some of the excess pounds. According to the American Sleep Foundation, even a 10 percent weight loss can reduce the nightly breathing interruptions.
* Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
* Talk to your pharmacist about the side effects of any medications you are taking.
* Discontinue use of sleeping pills.
Develop good sleep habits, including sleeping on your side, getting enough quality rest, and developing – and sticking to – a bedtime and sleep schedule.
* Get a sleep evaluation. This usually requires spending a night in a sleep facility, during which brain wave, eye movement, breathing and other vital functions are monitored. Your primary care physician can refer you.
* In addition, get your blood pressure under control through diet, regular moderate exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.
Women may experience insomnia or lack of sleep because their progesterone levels are low and being oestrogen-dominant can over stimulate the brain causing insomnia. Low levels of progesterone also increase anxiety and depression that can affect your sleep habits because serotonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, is not produced effectively if anxious or depressed.
During peri-menopause, when progesterone levels are fluctuating, using natural progesterone may help you get a good night’s sleep. During and after menopause, progesterone levels fall to almost zero. If you are producing oestrogen in your fat cells and/or absorbing xenoestrogens from the environment, the unbalanced oestrogen/progesterone levels may contribute to insomnia as well.