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Sleep Apnea: Signs and How to Avoid it

A comfortable bed with sunlight on it.

Sleep Apnea is a primary concern of the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The importance of reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles is crucial. Are you at risk? Major symptoms of sleep apnea include: pauses while you snore (if choking or gasping follows these pauses this is a major sign), and fighting sleepiness during the day (you may find yourself falling asleep quickly during times of the day when you are not active). Even if you don’t have daytime sleepiness, be sure to talk to your doctor if you have problems breathing during sleep!

Other common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include: morning headaches, memory or learning problems, not being able to concentrate, feeing irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes, waking up frequently to urinate, and a dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up.

Self-help treatments you can practice to avoid sleep apnea include: Losing weight (overweight people have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep), quitting smoking (smoking increases inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway), avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives (especially before bed time because they relax muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing), avoiding caffeine and heavy meals within 2 hours of bedtime, and maintaining regular hours of sleep.

Bedtime tips for preventing sleep apnea include: Sleeping on your side (avoid sleeping on your back because gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway), propping your head up, and opening your nasal passages (using a nasal dilator, saline spray, breathing strips, or a neti pot).

If your sleep apnea is more severe, you may have to see a doctor in which medical treatments would be discussed.

For more information and to take a questionnaire to evaluate your probability of having sleep apnea visit: www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/sleep-apnea.htm

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