Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can be responsible for a variety of physical symptoms, and even can be the cause of other very serious illnesses. The basic factor involved with this sleeping disorder is that, during sleep, the body does not breathe as it should.
Rather than a normal rhythm of inhaling and exhaling systematically, some malfunction of the brain or body causes inhaling to stop for abnormally long periods (typically 10 seconds or more). People who have ongoing episodes when breathing ceases during sleep can suffer from a lack of oxygen and experience a myriad of related symptoms and health problems.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Two different causes can be traced for sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the more common type in which a physical blockage of some sort prevents the body from breathing properly. This may be due to gravity that pulls neck muscles or the back of the tongue over the airways and creates a blockage. It could be caused by allergies or nasal congestion which stops up the breathing passages. In children, sleep apnea may be due to enlarged adenoids or tonsils that block the airways and interrupt healthy breathing.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is caused by a misfire of information from the brain to the body. The brain somehow “forgets” to send the message to the respiratory muscles to tell them to breathe during sleep. This less common type of sleep apnea may be caused by certain drug usage, brain infection, stroke, or conditions of the cervical spine (neck).
What Are Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Because it happens during sleep, many people who have sleep apnea are not aware of the fact that the breathing episodes are happening. In fact, many people are diagnosed based on the fact that a roommate or family member notices problems with breathing during sleep. Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up gasping for air or choking occasionally
- Morning headaches
- Fatigue or sleepiness during the day
- Insomnia or restless sleep
- Waking up with a sore or dry throat
- Mood changes, irritability, forgetfulness, decreased libido, slow reflexes
- Frequent urination during the night
Can Sleep Apnea Cause Nausea ?
Although nausea is not one of the more common symptoms of sleep apnea, some people do experience certain situations and symptoms during sleep apnea that may be related to nausea. Morning headaches, pregnancy, and use of narcotics may all be either symptoms of risk factors in relationship to sleep apnea.
These headaches may include migraine headaches, which often area associated with symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, light sensitivity, throbbing or pulsing pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, and even fainting. For some people, the nausea related to the headache will go away after time, while others need treatment from a doctor in order to rid themselves of migraines.
Use of Narcotics
Some people experience Central Sleep Apnea because of the use of certain narcotic drugs that cause the brain to “forget” to tell the body to breathe. As these pain killers dull pain, they also have a tendency to dull the body’s ability to keep the central respiratory system working properly. These drugs may also induce nausea or upset stomach, which could create a relationship between sleep apnea and nausea. Painkillers and narcotic drugs (typically available only by prescription) that may cause both nausea and sleep apnea include:
- Fentanyl (patch)
Women who are pregnant may have higher risk of developing sleep apnea based on the fact that they are more likely to struggle with congestion and snoring. Changing hormones, high blood pressure, weight gain, and fluid retention in the body may make it more likely that a pregnant women will have sleep apnea. And everyone knows that pregnancy also comes along with nausea, sensitive stomachs, and even vomiting—particularly during the early phases of pregnancy. Women who have sleep apnea during pregnancy may be at risk for developing other problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, preeclampsia, and various complications during labor and delivery.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
While the treatment for your sleep apnea (with or without nausea) may vary depending on what your doctor determines is the cause, there are some common treatments that are used.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines allow the body to continually receive oxygen even if the respiratory muscles are not triggering breathing. This also keeps the airways open continuously so that an blockage is not able to occur.
If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea along with nausea, it is critical that you speak with a medical professional to determine the cause and an appropriate treatment plan.
If your sleep apnea is caused by obesity, large neck circumference, or other forms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), then you may find some relief from this sleeping disorder simply by losing weight. Losing weight can minimize the pressure and blockage of the airways while also allowing your circulatory system to perform with less difficulty. It can be a struggle to lose weight when you aren’t sleeping well, especially because the fatigue makes it such a challenge to be able to exercise. Because of this, many people find that starting off with a CPAP machine is a good way to help them lose the weight that is needed to minimize sleep apnea symptoms.
People who suffer from sleep apnea may have a problem with breathing through their noses or mouths due to blockage. This might be related to a deviated septum, which can be minimized with the use of breathing strips or nasal dilators. Other people with recessed jaws may find that that being fitted with a dental device by their dentists will allow them to breathe better during sleep.
In rare cases, a person may need surgery to treat sleep apnea. This may be especially true for children who are experiencing sleep apnea due to enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Adults who have tried CPAP machines and other lifestyle changes may choose surgery that addresses issues with an enlarged tongue.
Sleep Apnea is health condition that should be taken very seriously. If you have nausea related to your sleep apnea, it may be relieved through treatment for the condition, but it also may be a secondary condition that needs a different type of care. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea that is going untreated, contact your medical professional or sleep expert to get a firm diagnosis and expert options for treatment. Sleep apnea is a treatable condition that does not have a limit the enjoyment of your life!