Think you have sleep apnea? What to do about it

By Gina Roberts-Grey

If your partner complains about your snoring, if you feel fatigued or often wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat, you could have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that can lead to the repeated stopping and starting of breathing. Such a condition can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Only your doctor can diagnose sleep apnea, but a simple quiz from Philips’ Save the Pillows effort can help you determine your potential risk and offer possible risk factors, such as weight and age, to discuss with your doctor.

If your quiz score indicates that you have a risk of sleep apnea, that you snore or experience fatigue or that you experience frequent morning dry mouth and/or sore throats, schedule an appointment with your doctor. You may need to undergo a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea and determine the severity.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which is the most popular and reliable way to treat sleep apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic. A CPAP machine incorporates one of several different mask options to prevent apnea and snoring by keeping airways open during sleep.

However, patients also can incorporate certain self-care techniques to treat sleep apnea, especially milder cases, the Mayo Clinic noted. So don’t be surprised if your doctor recommends you incorporate one or more of these into your lifestyle while you’re being evaluated for or have been diagnosed with sleep apnea:

Lose weight. For those who are overweight or obese, losing even a little weight can help alleviate constriction of the airways .

Avoid alcohol, tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Alcohol and/or certain medicines can worsen obstructive sleep apnea and sleepiness.

Sleep on your side or abdomen. Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat and block your airway. To prevent sleeping on your back, try sewing a tennis ball into the back of your pajama top.

Keep your nasal passages open while you sleep. If you have congestion, ask your doctor about saline nasal sprays, decongestants and other medications to help keep your nasal passages open.