There are a variety of issues that arise as a result of a lack of quality sleep. When you get a proper night’s rest of seven to eight hours of sleep, your body can undertake the necessary bodily processes to keep it healthy. This means that a good night’s sleep is crucial to the health of your body, brain, and heart.
Without adequate sleep, you are at increased risk for several diseases, including anxiety, obesity, increased alcohol use, and cardiovascular diseases.
According to the American Sleep Association, an estimated 50 to 70 million adults struggle to achieve a good night’s sleep because of a sleep disorder. Of this estimate, it’s believed that 25 million have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). As a result, this problem has been classified as a public health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control.
Consequently, the question we’re asking here today is, can weighted blankets help with sleep apnea? Read on to learn the answer.
What is Sleep Apnea? (OSA)
Sleep Apnea comes in three different forms. This article will look at Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder that affects over 25 million adults in the U.S. This disorder causes a blockage in your airway due to the soft tissue in the back of your throat collapsing during sleep. This leads you to experience shallow breathing. As a result of this blockage, there is a reduction in the amount of oxygen that gets to your brain. In other words, you briefly stop breathing. When this happens, a number of issues occur.
To begin with, OSA affects the quality of sleep a person gets. This is because when a person stops breathing, they wake up. OSA tends to be repetitive, causing a person to stop repeatedly breathing through the night and thereby wake up repeatedly.
Sleep Apnea is a common occurrence in overweight and obese people; however, anyone can get it. That being said, OSA occurs almost twice as frequently among obese people than it does in adults considered to be of “normal” weight. As obesity continues to rise in America, OSA becomes more widespread. In fact, in 2016, 71.6% of adults aged 20 and over were classified as overweight.
Sleep Apnea is dangerous if not treated, and it can increase the risk of developing serious diseases like a heart attack or other cardiovascular diseases.
What are the Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most common symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea are:
- Loud snoring
- Gulping for air during sleep
- Experiencing a morning headache
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Experiencing episodes where you stop breathing during sleep, usually reported by another person
- Trouble staying asleep (insomnia)
- Trouble paying attention while awake
- Extreme daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
Some Causes and Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea happens when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles are in charge of supporting your soft palate, which is the triangular piece of tissue that hangs from your uvula, your tonsils, the sidewalls of your throat, and your tongue. When the muscles at the back of your throat loosen up, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. As a result, you cannot get enough air which causes the oxygen level in your blood to decrease. When this happens, the brain senses that you can’t breathe and briefly wakes you from sleep so you can reopen your airway. In general, this awakening is so brief that you don’t remember it. You may snort, gasp, or choke. This pattern will usually repeat itself five to 30 times or more throughout the night, hindering your ability to achieve a deep, restful phase of sleep.
Sleep Apnea does not discriminate. It affects everyone, including children. However, certain factors increase your risk of getting Obstructive Sleep Apnea. These risk factors are:
- Being overweight or obese: When you carry excess weight, you significantly increase your risk of developing sleep apnea. This is because fat can deposit around your upper airway and obstruct your breathing.
- Being a man: Males are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than women. However, a woman’s risk of developing sleep apnea increases if they’re overweight, and their risk also seems to rise after menopause.
- Neck girth: People who have a larger neck circumference generally have narrower airways, putting them at greater risk for sleep apnea.
- Your age: Older adults are more at risk for sleep apnea.
- A narrowed airway: If you were born with a narrow throat, your tonsils or adenoids can become enlarged and block the airway, especially in children.
- Your family history: If you have family members who suffer from sleep apnea, you are more likely to suffer from it as well.
- Difficulty breathing through your nose: If you experience regular nasal congestion, whether due to allergies or an anatomical problem, you’re more likely to develop sleep apnea.
- Alcohol, sedative, or tranquilizer use: These substances cause the muscles in the back of your throat to relax, which can aggravate obstructive sleep apnea.
- Medical conditions: If you suffer from congestive heart failure, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or Parkinson’s disease, this may increase your chances of developing sleep apnea. Additionally, hormonal disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, prior chronic lung diseases, or strokes can also increase your risk.
- Smoking: Smoking can increase how much fluid you retain in your upper airway as well as inflammation of your upper airway. As a result, smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than people who have never smoked.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a grave medical condition and can result in many complications. These complications include:
- High blood pressure or heart problems: When a person stops breathing, they experience a sudden drop in their blood oxygen levels. As a result, this can increase their blood pressure and strain their cardiovascular system. Consequently, sleep apnea increases their risk of high blood pressure (hypertension).
- Metabolic syndrome: This disorder includes abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and a larger waist circumference. People with metabolic syndrome are at a greater risk of developing heart disease.
- Type 2 diabetes: People who suffer from sleep apnea are at a greater risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
- Sleepiness during the day: Sleep apnea causes a person to wake repeatedly, making normal, restorative sleep impossible. Consequently, people with sleep apnea often feel severe daytime drowsiness, irritability, and fatigue. For this reason, people with sleep apnea often have trouble concentrating and may fall asleep while working, watching TV, or driving. Consequently, they are more likely to experience car or workplace accidents. Furthermore, people with sleep apnea may find themselves acting moody, depressed, or quick-tempered.
- Surgical Complications: When a person has sleep apnea, they are at a greater risk of major surgery complications because of their breathing problems which become exacerbated when sedated or laid on their back.
- Sleep-deprived partners: Loud snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, and this can affect anyone who sleeps near you from getting a good night’s rest. It’s not unusual for partners to have to sleep in a separate room or even on a different floor of the house to be able to sleep.
- Liver problems: People who suffer from sleep apnea have a greater tendency to have abnormal results on their liver function tests, and their livers are more likely to display signs of scarring.
How can a Weighted Blanket Help Sleep Apnea?
There are many ways of dealing with obstructive sleep apnea. However, one that is slowly growing in popularity is the use of a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets are designed to weigh around ten percent of your body weight. This weight creates Deep Touch Pressure (DTP). DTP works by offering tactile sensory input from a form of pressure that is exerted equally over the body, such as a hug or swaddle, or in this circumstance, a weighted blanket. When the blanket exerts grounding pressure over your body, the receptors in your skin detect this pressure and send a signal to your brain, telling it that you are in a safe and stable environment. As a result, your brain releases serotonin and melatonin, which are feel-good neurotransmitters. Meanwhile, the stress and fight or flight hormone cortisol is inhibited. This results in a calming effect that alleviates tension in your mind and allows you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
When it comes to weighted blankets and sleep apnea, the general idea is that being cocooned in an extremely heavy blanket will cause your respiratory system to relax along with the rest of your body. As a consequence, you will be able to breathe and sleep easier. Additionally, a weighted blanket will help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea in the following ways:
- Reduction in cortisol levels
There is no direct link between cortisol levels and sleep apnea. However, when a person is stressed, they have high cortisol levels, and this causes their body to end up in a tense state. Being in a tense state can cause one’s muscles to restrict and cause poor quality sleep. This can contribute to weight gain. When you gain weight, your risk of developing sleep apnea increases. However, by using a weighted blanket, you can reduce your cortisol levels and thereby decreasing your chances of getting sleep apnea.
- Ability to keep you asleep
When you experience constant restlessness during the night, this prevents you from achieving a good night’s rest. However, a weighted blanket can help decrease your restlessness. People who suffer from sleep apnea usually also suffer from sleep-related disorders such as restless leg syndrome, and weighted blankets have been shown to help with these conditions.
- Improves breathing
A weighted blanket helps to decrease your heart rate, which gives your body a chance to relax. As a result, you will be breathing better and have an easier time getting quality, restful sleep.
- Increase in the production of oxytocin
The production of oxytocin plays a big role in helping people who suffer from sleep apnea. Several studies demonstrate that the increased production of oxytocin has positive benefits for people with sleep apnea. A weighted blanket mimics the sensation of getting a hug, leading to a rise in oxytocin, which helps lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Sleep is crucial to your health. One of the main causes of poor sleep is sleep apnea. You should now have a good understanding of what sleep apnea is, why it’s so detrimental to your health, and how a weighted blanket can help. Remember always to consult your doctor if you think you have sleep apnea and follow all guidelines related to weighted blanket use.