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When you’re worried about a disease you run the risk of overanalyzing and overthinking, especially with something like sleep apnea causes.
It’s vague and mysterious enough for all sorts of conclusions to be made but because it’s so serious, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.
Sleep apnea is far more complicated than meets the eye. For one, it has as much to do with your muscles as it does with your breathing. The root of that lays in why you get apnea to begin with.
While you sleep and your muscles loosen up, your airways become constricted making your brain wake you up for an instant. During this instant your muscles tense back up and you go back to sleep almost without missing a beat. The problem is that this keeps happening.
As you can imagine, extra weight and body fat won’t help this problem. Many people associate obesity with sleep apnea and in this case they’re right. The extra weight and fatty tissue adds pressure to your airway making it harder to breathe at night. The outside of your neck is just as vulnerable as the tissue on the outside though.
It sounds crazy to say that if you have a thick neck, you’re more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea but the truth is always stranger than fiction. Neck circumferences larger than 17 inches in men and 15 inches in women have been linked to developing sleep apnea.
So what about things other than body composition? Is there any truth to claims that your lifestyle can contribute to or worsen sleep apnea?
There’s nothing worse than people giving you advice about your habits from a high horse. In the case of sleep apnea though, some of those habits can be much more harmful than you’d think. Take smoking and drinking for example.
Smoking itself is an irritant and the way it affects the tissues in your throat mean that it makes you two and a half times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Drinking alcohol also increases your risks, but for a different reason.
Being a relaxant, as opposed to simply increasing your chances as some sort of cumulative effect, it loosens up your muscles. This means that unless you’re drinking in the morning, being intoxicated will make the muscles in your throat far more susceptible to hanging low and blocking airflow.
Luckily, the way your body is shaped or what you do to it won’t necessarily sentence you to a life with obstructive sleep apnea. If you take the time to find an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor or ENT, they can perform a sleep study and analyze your condition.
At Houston Sinus & Allergy, we assess patients for the severity of their condition, and determine a treatment. Book an assessment with our experienced ENT, Dr. Nguyen, and start feeling better.
It’s at this point that you can start taking a look at solutions and preventative measures. Addressing sleep apnea causes won’t only mean better sleep, it’ll mean better life.