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More than twenty million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that affects breathing. This page is designed to give you a little bit of information on sleep apnea, and how memory foam can help improve sleep for some individuals with the condition.

Please note that this information is being posted by laypeople, for laypeople. The following is not intended to diagnose any disease, or to propose memory foam as a cure for anything. The claims made here are based solely on anecdotal evidence from sleep apnea patients, not on clinical trials. Sleep apnea can be a serious condition, and if you think you have it, you should consult your doctor.

Definition Of Apnea
Apnea simply means a cessation of breathing. Sleep apnea is a condition in which the body stops breathing while the individual is asleep. The medical profession recognizes two basic types of the condition, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). CSA is a much more dangerous condition, and it should be noted that the only type of apnea that will be discussed here is obstructive sleep apnea.

Types of Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common form; about 9 out of 10 people with sleep apnea have this type. While it is still a serious condition, OSA is far less dangerous than central sleep apnea. With OSA, as the name suggests, the body stops breathing temporarily because of an obstruction in the airway. This could be caused by fat deposits or body positioning, or any number of other factors. Central sleep apnea is when the body "forgets" to breath. In this condition, the breathing reflex is absent, so lungs to not expand. Central sleep apnea is caused by a failure of the brain stem. Its causes are entirely different from those of OSA, and memory foam will not help with CSA in any way. CSA can be fatal, so if you think you have CSA, consult a doctor immediately.

CPAP sleep apneaThe interruptions to breathing that are experienced by OSA sufferers generally only last a few seconds before the individual wakes up, generally shifting position or otherwise correcting the blockage. These apnea episodes only last a few seconds, but in some cases they can occur thirty or forty times in an hour. The result is that the sleeper is prevented from ever entering into the deep phase of sleep known as REM sleep, something that is essential in order to feel rested during the day. OSA is particularly insidious, because people are often unaware that they have the condition. These individuals may always feel tired, but if they've had the condition for a number of years, they may literally have never had a good night sleep. The difference is sp profound that some people, after seeking treatment, report that they feel unlike they ever have before.

Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
OSA can be caused by a number of different factors. One of the major causes is obesity; extra weight on the chest can constrict air passages, especially for those who sleep on their backs. Fatty deposits inside the throat can also cause blockages. Some people require a special device called a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. They're not very fun to wear (see above), and so doctors usually prefer less invasive methods of controlling OSA. With relatively minor cases of sleep apnea, sometimes all that is needed is a change of pillows or sleeping positions. That's where memory foam comes in.

Memory Foam And Sleep Apnea
Several companies produce special pillows for sleep apnea that are designed for side sleeping. Sleeping on one's side helps to reduce extra weight on the chest, and also allows for a more natural alignment of internal air passages. Unfortunately, many people find side-sleeping uncomfortable. This is especially true for overweight individuals, who are also the most susceptible to the developing the condition. Memory foam mattresses or mattress toppers can help to alleviate the pressure points that make side sleep uncomfortable. By eliminating pressure points, the effects of which also disturb sleep, sleep apnea victims are able to use the side-sleep pillows that can provide relief. The sleeper gets a double benefit, less tossing and turning from their apnea condition, and less tossing and turning caused by pressure points.

Another major benefit of memory foam in general is it's ability to keep the spine aligned properly during sleep By supporting all body parts evenly, memory foam can eliminate the sag effect that causes misaligned vertebrae and back pain. For people with sleep apnea, the even support of memory foam serves a double purpose of keeping both spine and airway aligned, allowing air to travel more easily. Some apnea episodes can be caused simply by poor, contorted body positioning. Memory foam can help apnea sufferers to avoid this type of episode.

Sleep apnea is a medical condition with serious risks, and should not be taken lightly. Consult your doctor before embarking an any kind of supplemental therapy program.  Memory foam can improve general health and wellbeing for everyone, but can also have special benefits for those with some types of sleep apnea.

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