Author: Luke Sholl
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With over a decade of experience writing about CBD and cannabinoids, Luke is an established journalist working as the lead writer for Cibdol and other cannabinoid publications. Committed to presenting factual, evidence-based content, his fascination with CBD also extends to fitness, nutrition, and disease prevention.
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Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

With the potential to cause health problems and significant disruption to quality of life, sleep apnea is a common disorder, affecting roughly 20% of adults. To find out what you need to know about sleep apnea, including potential symptoms, causes, and the role of CBD, keep reading.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea[1] is a blanket term covering conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. While the exact cause of each condition differs, many of the symptoms overlap. People living with the illness stop and start breathing several times a night. Not only does this disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle, but left untreated, the disturbance can lead to serious health complications.

The challenge with sleep apnea is that many people aren’t aware it’s happening. When your brain detects a short pause in breathing, it rouses your body just enough for it to start breathing again, but not enough for you to fully wake. Unfortunately, by this point, the damage to your sleep cycle is already done, and it’s common for people with sleep apnea to experience fatigue, difficulty staying asleep and excessive daytime tiredness.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

Expanding on the symptoms listed above, it’s common for sleep apnea to cause the following:

• Choking or gasping sensation at night
• Disturbed sleep
• Excessive snoring
• Difficulty concentrating
• Fatigue
• Irritability

Because many of these symptoms are pretty general, it can be difficult to diagnose sleep apnea, especially if you sleep alone. However, if you find yourself constantly tired and waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth, you should speak to a doctor. You’re also at greater risk of having sleep apnea if you are obese, male, a smoker, or if you regularly suffer from nasal congestion or allergies.

The good news is that in children, sleep apnea is not as common, only affecting 1–5%[2] of children. Still, it can occur, so watch out for the symptoms listed above, alongside sleep terrors, bed-wetting, and sleeping in unusual positions.

Causes of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea typically manifests as one of three varieties, with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) the most common. OSA occurs when muscles at the back of the throat relax during sleep. The narrowed airway decreases oxygen intake, and sensing this, your brain briefly wakes you up so you can take a few extra breaths. Some people experience this sensation dozens of times a night and it significantly disrupts restful sleep.

There’s also central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome. The former occurs when the signals from your brain that help you breathe fail to reach your muscles. As a result, they trigger gasping or shortness of breath associated with sleep apnea. The latter, complex sleep apnea syndrome, is the most severe variant, as it’s a combination of OSA and central sleep apnea. Not only do your muscles relax, but also the impulses that control breathing fail to act.

To help identify which type of sleep apnea is causing issues, doctors often use a combination of lab and home tests. They monitor your oxygen intake during sleep and record when levels drop below the acceptable threshold.

How to treat sleep apnea

Given how impactful restful sleep is on mental and physical well-being, sleep apnea treatment is crucial. The best course of action depends on the severity of symptoms, your lifestyle, and any other health issues. Still, most doctors will recommend the following:

• Lifestyle adjustments: Factors such as weight, alcohol use and smoking can contribute to the onset and severity of sleep apnea. One of the first things a doctor will do is evaluate your lifestyle and make recommendations to address any contributing aspects. Losing weight and cutting back on alcohol can both help overcome the impact of sleep apnea.

• Gum shield/pillow: Non-invasive, both the gum shield and sleep apnea pillow help to keep airways open without the need for supportive machines or surgery. They are designed to help with mild cases of obstructive sleep apnea.

• CPAP/BPAP Machine: A continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) helps your body maintain a steady supply of oxygen, preventing the disruption to restful sleep caused by sleep apnea. It fits over the nose or nose and mouth and is designed for patients to use at home. Bilevel positive airway pressure machines (BPAP) are similar, but provide more pressure when you inhale.

• Surgery: Severe cases of sleep apnea may warrant surgery. By restructuring the airways, it’s possible to restore a steady flow of oxygen when you sleep. However, surgery is usually only considered when other treatments fail to improve symptoms.

CBD and sleep apnea

As it stands, there aren’t any definitive studies outlining the impact of CBD on sleep apnea. However, several research papers[3] are examining the influence of CBD on insomnia, which may impact overall sleep quality.

Despite the lack of evidence regarding CBD and sleep apnea, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that the compound has a limited potential for side effects and won’t get you high[4]. The watch out for CBD use is its interaction with prescription medication. While it’s unusual to prescribe medication for sleep apnea, it’s possible, so discuss taking CBD with your doctor.

Will sleep apnea go away?

Changes to lifestyle alone may improve cases of sleep apnea. However, for mild to moderate symptoms, you’ll likely need one of the treatment options we talked about earlier. The impact of sleep apnea may not be significant at first, but over time, the disruption to sleep can take its toll on your mental and physical well-being.

Sleep apnea has several potential complications, especially if cases remain untreated. These include heart problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and chronic kidney disease. If you regularly experience any of the symptoms outlined earlier and suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should speak to your physician for case-specific advice.

Why not browse the Cibdol store for a complete selection of high-quality CBD oils, capsules, supplements, and more. Or, to learn about the importance of sleep, your sleep cycle, and tips for a balanced lifestyle, visit our CBD Encyclopedia.

Sources

[1] NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sleep-apnoea/. Published 2019. Accessed December 1, 2021. [Source]

[2] Carter K.A., Hathaway N.E., Lettieri C.F. Common Sleep Disorders in Children. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0301/p368.html. Published: March 1, 2014. Accessed: December 2, 2021. [Source]

[3] Pacheco D. Is Cannabidiol a Safe and Effective Sleep Aid? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/cbd-and-sleep. Published: November 11, 2021. Accessed: December 2, 2021. [Source]

[4] WHO. Cannabidiol Critical Review. https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf. Published: 2018. Accessed: December 1, 2021. [Source]

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