No matter how early you go to bed, or much sleep you get, does it feel like you don’t get enough sleep at all? Do you wake up feeling breathless? If this is you, you might have sleep apnea, which cuts off much-needed oxygen to your airways when you sleep its sufferers wake up several times throughout the night to breathe. Sleep apnea is often the culprit for breathing problems at night, but sometimes it can be hard to identify the true, underlying cause. Want to find the culprit of your sleeping problems at night? Here are a few causes that may be inciting your breathing problems.
Could it be excess weight?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, many patients with sleep apnea are actually obese. This is because the extra tissue, or fat, around the back of your throat can obstruct your upper airway and block airflow while you’re asleep. This is a form of obstructive sleep apnea — since your airway is obstructed by excess tissue.
To determine if excess weight is the culprit of your breathing problems, you can measure your neck circumference with a measuring tape. If your neck measures 17 inches or more as a male, or 15 inches or more as a female, that excess weight could be the culprit of your breathing problems at night. But to find a definitive answer, you should undergo a general physical examination for obesity-related health issues with your primary care doctor.
Could it be a narrow airway?
If you are overweight, chances are your airway will be narrower because of the extra tissue obstructing it, and you may have breathing problems at night. However, having a narrow airway isn’t just for those who are overweight — because you might have been born with a naturally narrow throat or other naturally occurring issue!
Some other issues that may cause your airways to be blocked more easily include a large tongue or a misshapen roof of the mouth. To solve this issue, you may need to get an oral appliance from your dentist your dentist to wear when you sleep. The appliance can help move your jaw and tongue forward and away from the back of your throat — thus leaving your airways clear.
Could it be nasal congestion?
Allergy season can be a nuisance, especially if it’s causing you to have breathing problems at night! A stuffy nose caused by pollen, dirt, dust, or even mold spores forces you to breathe through your mouth, which often puts more pressure on the uvula and soft palate at the back of your throat. This pressure causes the uvula and soft palate to “vibrate” during sleep, which is what causes the snoring. Although this is not a form of sleep apnea, it can cause its sufferers to not get enough sleep. Try running an air purifier to rid the air of pollutants. If you’re still having problems, you may consider getting sinus surgery, septoplasty, or turbinate reduction to improve breathing.
Could it be asthma?
Some studies suggest that people with asthma are at increased risk for sleep apnea and that sleep apnea actually can worsen asthma. For instance, sleep apnea may cause increased inflammation in the airways – a problem that can trigger irritation and can worsen asthma because it causes the lungs to swell and narrow. Many people with sleep apnea complain of nasal congestion, breathlessness, coughing and wheezing — which can mean they have asthma as well!