How Can I Recognize the Fatigue Associated with Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. One of the most common symptoms associated with sleep apnea is fatigue. People who suffer from sleep apnea often wake up feeling tired and exhausted, even after a full night’s sleep. This can have a significant impact on their daily lives, making it difficult to stay alert and focused during the day. In this article, we will explore what sleep apnea fatigue feels like and how you can recognize the signs and symptoms of this condition. We will also discuss the potential causes of sleep apnea fatigue and how it can be treated. So, if you’re feeling tired all the time, read on to find out how sleep apnea could be the culprit.

Quick Answer:
Recognizing the fatigue associated with sleep apnea can be challenging as it may present similarly to other forms of fatigue. However, some common symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty staying alert, and irritability. It is important to note that fatigue can also be caused by other underlying health conditions, so it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects a person’s breathing during sleep. It is characterized by intermittent pauses in breathing that can last from several seconds to minutes. These pauses can occur repeatedly throughout the night, causing disruptions in the sleep cycle and leading to various symptoms.

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness, which can manifest as difficulty staying awake during the day, frequent napping, and difficulty concentrating. Other symptoms include:

  • Snoring: Loud and persistent snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. This is because the condition causes the airways to become blocked or narrowed, leading to difficulty breathing and snoring.
  • Gasping or choking: People with sleep apnea may experience pauses in breathing that are so severe that they wake up gasping or choking.
  • Pauses in breathing: The pauses in breathing that occur during sleep apnea can be so brief that they go unnoticed, but they can also be more pronounced and cause the person to wake up or become aware that they are not breathing properly.
  • Waking up feeling tired: Despite getting a full night’s sleep, people with sleep apnea often wake up feeling tired and groggy. This is because the disruptions in the sleep cycle caused by the pauses in breathing prevent the body from getting the restful sleep it needs.
  • Dry mouth or sore throat: The pauses in breathing during sleep can cause the mouth to dry out or lead to a sore throat in the morning.
  • Insomnia: People with sleep apnea may experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, leading to insomnia.

It is important to note that not everyone with sleep apnea experiences all of these symptoms, and some people may have only mild symptoms that go unnoticed. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider who can diagnose and treat sleep apnea.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects a person’s breathing during sleep. It is characterized by repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the airway, which leads to reduced or paused breathing for ten seconds or more. This can happen multiple times throughout the night, causing a person to wake up feeling tired and fatigued despite getting an adequate amount of sleep.

There are several risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing sleep apnea. These include:

  • Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop sleep apnea due to excess fat deposits in the neck, which can block the airway during sleep.
  • Large tonsils or adenoids: These are the small lumps of tissue that can obstruct the airway, especially in children.
  • Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop sleep apnea due to the irritation and inflammation caused by smoking, which can narrow the airways.
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol can relax the muscles in the back of the throat, making it easier for the airway to become blocked during sleep.
  • Nasal congestion: People with nasal congestion, such as those with allergies or sinus problems, may be more prone to developing sleep apnea.
  • Age: Sleep apnea is more common in older adults, particularly those over the age of 65.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women, although women’s risk increases after menopause.
  • Family history: People with a family history of sleep apnea may be more likely to develop the condition themselves.

It is important to note that some people may have sleep apnea without being aware of it, as the symptoms can be subtle and easily dismissed as a result of other factors. If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

How Does Sleep Apnea Cause Fatigue?

Key takeaway: Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by intermittent pauses in breathing that can lead to disruptions in the sleep cycle and various symptoms, including excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, gasping or choking, pauses in breathing, waking up feeling tired, dry mouth or sore throat, and insomnia. Risk factors for sleep apnea include obesity, large tonsils or adenoids, smoking, alcohol consumption, nasal congestion, age, gender, and family history. Sleep apnea can cause fatigue by interrupting sleep patterns, leading to a lack of deep sleep and oxygen deprivation, and causing poor sleep quality. Recognizing the signs of sleep apnea and seeking professional help for diagnosis and treatment is crucial for improving overall health and well-being.

Interruption of Sleep

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects the quality of sleep by causing interruptions in breathing patterns during the night. These interruptions can occur due to a blocked airway, which can cause the sleeper to wake up frequently throughout the night.

When the airway becomes blocked, the sleeper is forced to wake up in order to resume breathing. This can happen many times throughout the night, leading to a lack of deep sleep and a reduced overall sleep quality. The lack of deep sleep is what causes the fatigue associated with sleep apnea.

Furthermore, when the sleeper wakes up, it takes time for them to fall back asleep, and they may not be able to return to the same stage of sleep they were in before the interruption. This can result in a cycle of interrupted sleep that can leave the sleeper feeling tired and groggy in the morning.

The frequency and duration of these interruptions can vary depending on the severity of the sleep apnea. However, even mild sleep apnea can cause significant disruptions to sleep, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

Overall, the interruption of sleep caused by sleep apnea can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, making it difficult to stay alert and focused during the day. Recognizing the signs of sleep apnea, such as frequent waking, loud snoring, and excessive daytime sleepiness, can help individuals seek treatment and improve their overall sleep quality.

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Oxygen Deprivation

During sleep, the airways of an individual with sleep apnea are repeatedly obstructed, causing the breathing to become shallow and disrupted. This results in a decrease in the amount of oxygen that is inhaled into the lungs. As a consequence, the brain and other organs in the body are deprived of the necessary oxygen supply, leading to fatigue.

This oxygen deprivation can have serious consequences for the body. For instance, it can cause a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, which can lead to muscle fatigue and soreness. It can also affect the ability of the brain to function properly, leading to memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes. Additionally, it can lead to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Moreover, the repeated cycle of oxygen deprivation and reoxygenation that occurs during sleep apnea can activate the body’s stress response, leading to the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can further contribute to fatigue and make it more difficult to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.

In summary, sleep apnea can cause fatigue by leading to oxygen deprivation, which can have serious consequences for the body’s physiological processes. Recognizing the signs of sleep apnea-related fatigue is crucial for seeking appropriate treatment and improving overall health and well-being.

Poor Sleep Quality

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects the quality of sleep, leading to poor sleep patterns. People with sleep apnea often experience repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of their airways during sleep, causing them to wake up frequently. This can result in poor sleep quality, as the body is not able to complete full sleep cycles.

Poor sleep quality is one of the main reasons why people with sleep apnea experience fatigue. During the night, the body goes through different stages of sleep, including REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep. Each stage of sleep has a specific function, and a lack of deep sleep can lead to feelings of fatigue and lethargy during the day.

People with sleep apnea often experience fragmented sleep, as they are woken up frequently throughout the night. This can prevent them from entering the deep sleep stages, leading to a lack of restorative sleep. The lack of deep sleep can result in feelings of fatigue, grogginess, and irritability during the day.

Furthermore, the repeated waking up during the night can also lead to a condition called sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is a chronic lack of sleep that can have serious consequences for both physical and mental health. It can affect mood, concentration, and productivity, and can increase the risk of developing other health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Overall, poor sleep quality is a key factor in the fatigue associated with sleep apnea. By addressing the sleep disorder and improving sleep quality, people with sleep apnea can experience a significant improvement in their energy levels and overall well-being.

What Does Sleep Apnea Fatigue Feel Like?

Physical Symptoms of Sleep Apnea Fatigue

One of the most common physical symptoms of sleep apnea fatigue is excessive daytime sleepiness. People with sleep apnea often feel tired and sluggish, even after a full night’s sleep. This fatigue can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities and can cause problems at work or school.

Another physical symptom of sleep apnea fatigue is difficulty concentrating. People with sleep apnea may have trouble staying focused and may find it difficult to remember things. This can be especially problematic for people who have jobs that require them to be mentally alert, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.

Sleep apnea fatigue can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, and joint pain. These symptoms can be debilitating and can make it difficult to carry out daily activities.

In addition to these physical symptoms, people with sleep apnea may also experience other health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect that you have sleep apnea, as these health problems can be serious and may require treatment.

Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms of Sleep Apnea Fatigue

Sleep apnea can cause a range of emotional and behavioral symptoms, which can help individuals recognize the fatigue associated with this condition. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Mood swings: People with sleep apnea may experience sudden changes in mood, from feeling happy and energetic to feeling irritable and depressed. These mood swings can be a result of the disrupted sleep patterns caused by sleep apnea.
  • Memory problems: Sleep apnea can cause difficulties with memory and concentration, which can lead to problems with learning and performing daily tasks. This can also make it difficult to remember important details, such as appointments or events.
  • Irritability: People with sleep apnea may become easily irritated or frustrated, even over small things. This can cause strain on personal relationships and make it difficult to interact with others.
  • Impaired judgment: Sleep apnea can cause impaired judgment, which can make it difficult to make decisions or solve problems. This can be particularly dangerous if it affects a person’s ability to drive or operate machinery.
  • Lack of motivation: People with sleep apnea may feel a lack of motivation or energy, which can make it difficult to complete tasks or participate in activities they enjoy. This can lead to feelings of boredom or apathy.
  • Insomnia: Sleep apnea can cause insomnia, which is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This can lead to a cycle of wakefulness and fatigue, making it difficult to function during the day.

These emotional and behavioral symptoms can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life, and recognizing them can help individuals seek treatment for their sleep apnea.

How Can I Tell if My Fatigue is Caused by Sleep Apnea?

Self-Assessment Questions

Sleep apnea can cause fatigue, but it can be difficult to determine if your fatigue is caused by sleep apnea or another factor. To help you assess whether your fatigue may be related to sleep apnea, consider answering the following self-assessment questions:

  • Do you frequently feel tired, even after a full night’s sleep?
  • Do you experience difficulty staying awake during the day, even when you have had a good night’s sleep?
  • Do you frequently fall asleep while watching TV, driving, or engaging in other sedentary activities?
  • Do you often wake up feeling unrefreshed or groggy in the morning?
  • Do you have trouble concentrating or staying focused throughout the day?
  • Do you have difficulty remembering things or experience forgetfulness?
  • Do you have a partner or roommate who has noticed that you stop breathing or make snoring sounds while sleeping?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, it may be worth consulting with a healthcare professional to determine if sleep apnea could be the cause of your fatigue.

Consulting a Medical Professional

Consulting a medical professional is an essential step in determining whether your fatigue is caused by sleep apnea. Here are some key points to consider when seeking professional advice:

  1. Seek a Referral: Your primary care physician or family doctor can refer you to a sleep specialist. Sleep specialists are medical professionals who specialize in sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.
  2. Prepare for Your Appointment: Before your appointment, it’s helpful to prepare a list of your symptoms, including the frequency and severity of your fatigue, any other sleep problems you’re experiencing, and any other health concerns you have. It’s also important to mention any known risk factors for sleep apnea, such as a family history of the condition or being overweight.
  3. Expect a Comprehensive Evaluation: During your appointment, the sleep specialist will likely conduct a thorough evaluation, which may include a physical exam, a review of your medical history, and a sleep study. A sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, is a test that measures various aspects of your sleep, including your breathing, heart rate, and oxygen levels.
  4. Consider Alternative Diagnoses: While fatigue is a common symptom of sleep apnea, it can also be caused by other conditions, such as insomnia or depression. It’s important for the sleep specialist to consider alternative diagnoses and rule them out before diagnosing sleep apnea.
  5. Discuss Treatment Options: If sleep apnea is diagnosed, the sleep specialist will discuss treatment options with you. These may include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, or the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves wearing a mask during sleep to help keep the airways open.
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Overall, consulting a medical professional is essential in determining whether your fatigue is caused by sleep apnea. By seeking a referral, preparing for your appointment, and undergoing a comprehensive evaluation, you can receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

What are the Consequences of Ignoring Sleep Apnea Fatigue?

Short-Term Consequences

Ignoring the fatigue associated with sleep apnea can have significant short-term consequences, including:

  • Decreased productivity and performance at work or school
  • Increased risk of accidents and errors
  • Strained relationships with family and friends
  • Impaired ability to concentrate and make decisions
  • Worsening of mood and emotional state
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Impaired ability to perform daily activities
  • Increased risk of workplace accidents
  • Impaired cognitive functioning
  • Increased risk of developing other health problems.

Long-Term Consequences

Ignoring the fatigue associated with sleep apnea can have severe long-term consequences for an individual’s overall health and well-being. These consequences can be classified into several categories, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and mood disorders.

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, stroke, and heart failure. This is because sleep apnea can cause a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood, which can strain the heart and blood vessels over time.
  • Metabolic Dysfunction: Sleep apnea is also linked to an increased risk of developing metabolic dysfunction, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. This is because sleep apnea can disrupt the body’s natural metabolic processes, leading to an imbalance of hormones and an increased risk of developing these conditions.
  • Mood Disorders: Sleep apnea can also have a negative impact on an individual’s mental health, increasing the risk of developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. This is because sleep apnea can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to feelings of fatigue, irritability, and stress.

In conclusion, ignoring the fatigue associated with sleep apnea can have serious long-term consequences for an individual’s health and well-being. It is important to recognize the signs of sleep apnea and seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid these potentially life-threatening consequences.

How Can I Manage Sleep Apnea Fatigue?

Lifestyle Changes

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight or obese. Losing weight can help reduce the severity of sleep apnea and alleviate fatigue.
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking can exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms and lead to more frequent awakenings during the night. Quitting smoking can improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.
  • Avoiding alcohol and sedatives: Alcohol and sedatives can relax the muscles in the back of the throat, causing them to collapse and obstruct the airway. This can worsen sleep apnea symptoms and lead to more frequent awakenings during the night. Avoiding these substances can improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.
  • Sleeping on your side: Sleeping on your back can worsen sleep apnea symptoms and lead to more frequent awakenings during the night. Sleeping on your side can help keep the airway open and reduce the severity of sleep apnea symptoms.
  • Using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine: A CPAP machine is a device that delivers a constant stream of air through a mask worn during sleep. This can help keep the airway open and reduce the severity of sleep apnea symptoms, leading to improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue.

Treatment Options

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy: This is the most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP therapy involves wearing a mask during sleep that delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the airways open.
  • Oral appliances: Another option is to use oral appliances such as mouthguards or jaw adjustment devices to help keep the airways open.
  • Lifestyle changes: Making certain lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol before bedtime can also help alleviate sleep apnea symptoms.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove excess tissue in the throat or to correct other structural issues that may be contributing to sleep apnea.

It is important to note that the most effective treatment plan for sleep apnea will vary depending on the individual and the severity of their condition. It is best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment options.

CPAP Therapy

CPAP therapy, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure therapy, is a common treatment for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask during sleep that delivers a constant stream of air to keep the airways open and prevent apneic episodes. This therapy has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, including fatigue.

Here are some details about CPAP therapy:

Benefits of CPAP Therapy

  • Reduces the frequency and severity of apneic episodes
  • Improves sleep quality and duration
  • Reduces daytime sleepiness and fatigue
  • Improves cognitive function and mood
  • Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems associated with sleep apnea

How to Use CPAP Therapy

Using CPAP therapy is relatively simple. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Consult with a healthcare provider to determine if CPAP therapy is appropriate for your sleep apnea.
  2. Get fitted for a CPAP mask that is comfortable for you.
  3. Set up the CPAP machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Use the CPAP machine every night while you sleep.
  5. Follow up with your healthcare provider regularly to monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your therapy.

Common Challenges with CPAP Therapy

While CPAP therapy is generally effective, some people may experience challenges with using the therapy consistently. Common challenges include:

  • Difficulty adjusting to wearing the mask during sleep
  • Dry mouth or nasal congestion
  • Noise from the CPAP machine
  • Difficulty finding a comfortable CPAP mask

It is important to work with your healthcare provider to address any challenges you may have with CPAP therapy. They may be able to make adjustments to your therapy or recommend other treatment options.

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Oral Appliances

One of the most common ways to manage sleep apnea fatigue is through the use of oral appliances. These devices are designed to help keep the airways open during sleep, which can reduce the frequency and severity of sleep apnea episodes. There are several different types of oral appliances available, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Types of Oral Appliances

The most common type of oral appliance used to treat sleep apnea is the mandibular advancement device (MAD). This device works by moving the lower jaw forward, which can help open the airways and reduce the occurrence of sleep apnea episodes. Other types of oral appliances include tongue-retaining devices (TRDs) and custom-fit dental devices.

Benefits of Oral Appliances

One of the main benefits of using oral appliances to manage sleep apnea fatigue is that they are non-invasive and do not require any surgery or other invasive procedures. Additionally, oral appliances are generally easier to use and more convenient than other treatment options, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.

Another benefit of oral appliances is that they can be highly effective at reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, including snoring and daytime fatigue. Studies have shown that oral appliances can reduce the frequency and severity of sleep apnea episodes, leading to improved sleep quality and reduced daytime fatigue.

How to Choose the Right Oral Appliance

When choosing an oral appliance to manage sleep apnea fatigue, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional who can help determine the best option for your individual needs. Factors to consider when choosing an oral appliance include the severity of your sleep apnea, the size and shape of your mouth and jaw, and any other medical conditions or concerns you may have.

Once you have selected an oral appliance, it is important to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare professional carefully to ensure that you are using the device correctly and effectively. Regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare professional can also help ensure that the oral appliance is working properly and that any necessary adjustments are made to improve its effectiveness.

Surgery

Surgery is a common treatment option for sleep apnea that can help reduce the symptoms of the condition, including fatigue. The two most common types of surgery for sleep apnea are:

  1. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This surgery involves removing excess tissue from the back of the mouth and throat, which can help widen the airway and reduce the obstruction that causes sleep apnea. During the procedure, the uvula and palate are also reshaped to provide better airflow.
  2. Maxillomandibular advancement surgery (MMA): This surgery involves moving the upper and lower jaws forward, which can help open up the airway and reduce the severity of sleep apnea. The procedure is typically performed on individuals who have severe sleep apnea that has not responded to other treatments.

While surgery can be effective in treating sleep apnea, it is important to note that it is not a cure for the condition. Patients may still require additional treatment, such as CPAP therapy or oral appliances, to manage their symptoms effectively. It is important to discuss the benefits and risks of surgery with a healthcare provider to determine if it is the right treatment option for you.

Monitoring and Adjusting Treatment

Effective management of sleep apnea fatigue requires constant monitoring and adjustment of treatment strategies. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Regular follow-up appointments: Schedule regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your sleep apnea symptoms and treatment progress. During these appointments, discuss any changes in your fatigue levels and any new symptoms that may have developed.
  2. Adjusting treatment: Based on your progress and any changes in your symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend adjustments to your sleep apnea treatment. This may include changes to your CPAP settings, adjusting your dental appliance, or exploring alternative treatments such as positional therapy or lifestyle changes.
  3. Tracking progress: Keep track of your progress over time. This can help you and your healthcare provider determine the effectiveness of your treatment and make any necessary adjustments. Keep a sleep diary or use a sleep tracking device to monitor your sleep patterns and fatigue levels.
  4. Education and self-management: Take an active role in managing your sleep apnea and fatigue. Educate yourself about sleep apnea and its treatment options, and learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea fatigue. This can help you make informed decisions about your treatment and better manage your condition.
  5. Consistency: Consistency is key when it comes to managing sleep apnea fatigue. Follow your treatment plan as closely as possible, and make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce your risk of developing other health problems.

By regularly monitoring and adjusting your sleep apnea treatment, you can effectively manage sleep apnea fatigue and improve your overall quality of life.

FAQs

1. What is sleep apnea fatigue?

Sleep apnea fatigue is a type of fatigue that is caused by sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the airway during sleep. When the airway is obstructed, the person’s breathing is interrupted, causing them to wake up multiple times during the night. This disrupts the normal sleep cycle and can lead to a feeling of fatigue and exhaustion during the day.

2. How does sleep apnea fatigue differ from regular fatigue?

Regular fatigue is a feeling of tiredness or exhaustion that can be caused by a variety of factors, such as lack of sleep, stress, or illness. Sleep apnea fatigue, on the other hand, is specifically caused by sleep apnea and is characterized by a feeling of tiredness that is not relieved by rest or sleep. People with sleep apnea may also experience other symptoms, such as snoring, gasping for air, and pauses in breathing during sleep.

3. What are the symptoms of sleep apnea fatigue?

The symptoms of sleep apnea fatigue can vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include feeling tired or exhausted, even after getting a full night’s sleep, difficulty staying awake during the day, irritability, and a lack of energy. People with sleep apnea may also experience other symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and mood changes.

4. How is sleep apnea fatigue diagnosed?

Sleep apnea fatigue is typically diagnosed by a healthcare professional, such as a sleep specialist or a primary care doctor. The diagnosis is usually based on a physical exam, a review of the person’s medical history, and a sleep study, which is a test that measures various aspects of sleep, such as breathing patterns and brain activity.

5. How is sleep apnea fatigue treated?

Treatment for sleep apnea fatigue typically involves addressing the underlying sleep apnea. This may involve using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which is a device that helps keep the airways open during sleep, or wearing a dental appliance that helps keep the airways open. In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, may also be recommended.

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