Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night gasping for air, and a sneaking suspicion that you have…stopped breathing in your sleep? Not only can identifying and diagnosing nighttime breathing and respiratory problems be scary, it can be one of the most frustrating things you’ll ever attempt–because many of your symptoms are occurring while you’re asleep! Nighttime breathing problems are very common, and have many potential causes: a lingering cold or cough, asthma, allergies, and sleep apnea are some of the most common diagnoses. There are many steps you can take toward solving your frightening problem; the first step is to learn more about the most common nighttime breathing and respiratory problems and get a proper medical diagnosis.
According to MedHelp, sleep apnea is the most common nighttime breathing and respiratory problem by far. “Apnea” is a Greek word meaning “want of breath.” If you have any of the three different types of sleep apnea, you stop breathing while you’re sleeping, in some cases hundreds of times a night. The most common sufferers of this particular nighttime breathing and respiratory problem are males who are overweight and snore, but the disorder has been diagnosed in all ages and sexes. This self-assessment quiz can help you determine if you have some of the many signs of sleep apnea.If you take one of the many self-assessment tests available on the internet and realize that you are at risk for sleep apnea, it is highly advisable that you consult with your doctor, and seek a sleep center in your area for a sleep study so you can be properly diagnosed. Sleep apnea is not a mere annoyance that leaves you groggy in the morning, it can be very dangerous if untreated! A recent John Hopkins Health Alert announced that “researchers found that men with untreated severe sleep apnea were almost three times as likely as healthy participants to suffer from a fatal heart attack or stroke, and more than three times as likely to have a non-fatal heart attack or stroke or to require heart surgery.” If you are found to have obstructive sleep apnea (the most common kind), you will likely be prescribed a CPAP mask to wear while you sleep at night. Sleep Services of America, a leading provider of CPAP treatment, offers an excellent Q&A here on what CPAP treatment is and what it involves. Other treatment options to remedy this nighttimme breathing and respiratory problem are surgery, or a special mouthpiece in the case of mild apnea.
Nocturnal asthma is another common nighttime breathing and respiratory problem. According to “What is Nocturnal Asthma?” an article by Kathleen MacNaughton, R.N., about 75% of asthma sufferers are affected by their symptoms at night at least once a week. There are many different factors involved in ocurrences of nocturnal asthma. Everything from different levels of hormones in the body at night, to allergens that are common in bedrooms and bed linens, to the wearing off of effectiveness of asthma medication. Asthmatics suffering from asthma-related nighttime breathing and respiratory problems have several treatment options, including trying different medications for nighttime, and ridding bedrooms of asthma triggers.
Nasal obstruction, like rhinitis or sinusitis, is a third major cause of nighttime breathing and respiratory problems, and is the one most commonly treated with medication. Nasal obstruction can be a symptom of allergies, like hay fever, or even a symptom of the common cold, or a sinus infection. According to Respiratory Reviews, antihistamines, decongestants, and/or intranasal corticosteroids are all common treatment options for allergic rhinitis, and the timing of the treatment can be crucial for relieving nighttime breathing problems. As for nasal obstruction related to the common cold or flu, over the counter nighttime remedies for the duration of the illness will help alleviate the problem and help the sufferer sleep, as will saline and nasal washes, and sleeping with a vaporizer in the bedroom.
Nighttime breathing and respiratory problems are common, but don’t delay if you find yourself suffering–an accurate diagnosis is crucial for proper treatment.
National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Breathing Disorders During Sleep”, MedHelp
Learn the Facts, SleepHelpUSA
John Hopkins Health Alert, “Recent Findings on Dangers of Sleep Apnea”
Sleep Services USA, “Common Questions and Answers About CPAP Treatment”
Kathleen MacNaughton, R.N., “What is Nocturnal Asthma?”www.about.com
Bob Kronemyer, “Rhinitis and Sleep Complications: What’s The Connection”, Respiratory Reviews