When you hear about sleep apnea you may think of a sedentary person struggling with extra pounds. However, this common sleeping disorder doesn’t pick and choose its target audience based on their fitness level.

Almost anyone can suffer from restless nights due to sleep apnea and athletes are one of them. If you can get a full night of sleep and think you may have sleep apnea, read on to find out what exactly it is, what are its common causes and how to deal with it as an athlete. 

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that is extremely common in the American population. Some research suggests that around 12 percent of Americans are dealing with it, making it the most widespread sleeping issue in the nation. It occurs when you seemingly randomly stop breathing for a prolonged amount of time while you sleep. This can cause people to snore and sometimes even wake up.

Apart from these seemingly only annoying issues, interrupted breathing can also lead to your heart getting damaged over time, as well as your lungs. Constantly having restless nights has other risks too which are loss of focus, brain fog, and fatigue. These can be a serious issue affecting your performance as an athlete which is why it’s crucial to seek sleep apnea treatment as soon as you think you may have a problem.

What causes sleep apnea?

There’s a common misconception that only those who are obese and sedentary get sleep apnea. While it’s true that additional weight can lead to issues while breathing in your sleep this is not the only cause of this disorder. Some research suggests that men with wider necks have the highest risk of developing sleep apnea.

As you may conclude, obese individuals aren’t the only ones having a large neck circumference. Strong active individuals such as football players and powerlifters also store a lot of weight in their neck which may make it harder for them to breathe at night.

There has also been research suggesting that NFL players are five times more likely to develop sleep apnea.

Problems with a deviated septum can also lead to having issues sleeping which is a common issue of many boxers and martial arts practitioners due to the nature of their sport of choice. 

Sleep is crucial for athletes

Quality sleep is considered to be a vital component of sports performance and effective recovery by both professional and amateur athletes and trainers.

No matter if you’re in the gym, at work, or at home, a lack of sleep may have a negative impact on your ability to function. In studies, it has been demonstrated that people who are well-rested outperform those who are fatigued by a large margin. Therefore, the greatest exercise you can do as an athlete is to get adequate sleep.

Fortunately, if you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, going back to a regular sleep schedule is simpler than you would imagine if you get proper treatment.

How to treat sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is not a disorder you can deal with on your own as you will need to work with a team of specialized medical professionals. Dentistry treatment, CPAP, or even rhinoplasty may all be effective treatment options for those dealing with sleep apnea.

Firstly, you’ll need to get properly diagnosed and the underlying cause of your situation should be discovered. Some athletes have, on the other hand, managed to heal their sleep apnea by tweaking their nutrition by introducing quality nutrients back into their diets.

Your next steps

As an athlete, you need to get as much sleep as possible for ultimate performance and recovery. Therefore, when you notice you’re having issues breathing in your sleep make sure to call your physician and continue your diagnostic journey which will ultimately end with quality sleep and hopefully you breaking your own fitness records.

Click here for full podcast playlist.