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The Links Between Nasal Congestion and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

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The respiratory tract is a complicated system and while intended to provide our bodies with the life-giving oxygen needed to survive, problems can occur.

One common ailment is known as non-allergenic rhinitis. As many are not overly familiar with this term, it is a good idea to take a closer look at what it entails. We will thereafter establish a link between rhinitis and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). It will then be much easier to appreciate the treatment options at your disposal.

What is Rhinitis?

Rhinitis is commonly referred to simply as nasal congestion. This condition is associated with an inflammation of the linings of your nasal passages. As a result, breathing can become somewhat difficult. Rhinitis can be classified into one of two categories:

  • Allergenic rhinitis
  • Non-allergenic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis

As we can already see, there may be times when an allergen causes rhinitis. This is often due to the inhalation of specific irritants such as pollen and mould spores. The severity of the condition as well as the associated symptoms often varies between individuals. For example, you might be particularly prone to developing hay fever while a close friend appears to be immune.

SinuPulse and the SoClean can help with this issue. SinuPulse is great for allergies and sinus issues, as it helps clear out blockages and allergens, and the salt reduces inflammation and promotes healing. The SoClean kills bacteria in
the CPAP machine and therefore reduces the risk of air-borne infection.

Non-allergic rhinitis

On the contrary, non-allergenic rhinitis occurs when no allergens are present. In other words, there are no external triggers which cause this type of rhinitis. The most well-known example of non-allergenic rhinitis is arguably the common cold. We will be focusing on this secondary type for the remainder of this article as well as highlighting its relationship with obstructive sleep apnoea.

What Causes Non-Allergenic Rhinitis?

The symptoms of non-allergenic rhinitis are generally caused by a swelling of the numerous blood vessels found within your nasal passages. As the airways narrow, the body automatically begins to produce mucous via a series of glands found close by. This is why one primary symptom of a cold is a runny nose.

Mucous is produced due to the fact that the nose tends to be more susceptible to bacteria when rhinitis is present. It therefore acts as a barrier in order to prevent a further infection.

The unfortunate side effect is that a runny nose can make it difficult to breathe; particularly when laying down in the evening. This will obviously have a debilitating effect upon those who have already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea.

While the mechanics behind non-allergenic rhinitis are understood, the exact causes can vary from person to person. Some of the factors which could contribute to the development of this condition include:

  • Extreme changes in ambient temperature and humidity.
  • Exposure to certain types of smoke and fumes.
  • Viral infections which specifically affect the lining of the nose and throat.
  • Hormone imbalances or medication intended to be used as a type of hormone therapy.

The fact of the matter is that all of us have suffered from this condition in one form or another over the years. While it is normally a self-correcting situation requiring little intervention, the same cannot always be said for those who have already been diagnosed with sleep apnoea or those who suspect that OSA may be present.

Let us now take a look at the relationship between non-allergenic rhinitis and obstructive sleep apnoea.

The Effect Upon Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

It is first important to understand the mechanics of sleep apnoea. OSA is caused by an involuntary narrowing of your airways. This often occurs when sleeping due to your prone position. Obstructive sleep apnoea therefore restricts the amount of oxygen that your body can absorb during any giving time. As breathing becomes more laboured, one or more of these symptoms may occur:

  • Extremely loud snoring
  • Waking up in the middle of night feeling very short of breath
  • Coughing
  • The inability to obtain a sound night of sleep

We must remember that the nasal passages and the throat are both connected. It therefore stands to reason that a blockage in one will have a negative impact upon the other. The real question is how non-allergenic rhinitis could exacerbate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea and if there are any additional risks to be appreciated.

Exacerbating Your Current Condition

You might be surprised to learn that those who suffer from chronic nasal congestion (such as non-allergenic rhinitis) are nearly twice as likely to develop obstructive sleep apnoea. Why is this the case?

As we have seen in the previous section, the nasal passages and the throat are two integral segments of the entire respiratory system. Assuming that rhinitis makes it difficult to breathe through your nose, you are more likely to suffer from a complete blockage in your throat.

To put it simply, the nose is further restricting your airflow; increasing the possibility of developing OSA as well as worsening the symptoms if you have already been diagnosed with this condition. It should therefore be clear that one of the best ways to avoid the situations mentioned above is to try to avert the symptoms associated with non-allergenic rhinitis.

Getting Nasal Congestion Under Control

Keep in mind that non-allergenic rhinitis is usually not a serious condition in and of itself. The main issue is when it occurs alongside other chronic illnesses such as obstructive sleep apnoea. This is why it is important to take a look at some of the ways in which to treat this type of rhinitis.

Try to avoid situations which could trigger an episode (such as keeping the ambient temperature of a room stable or eliminating dust particles within your home through an air filtration system). If caused by a virus, over-the-counter medication can often be used to lessen its duration and overall effects.

Steroidal nasal sprays may also work, but they normally require a few weeks before you begin to notice an overall change in symptoms. Above all, consult with a physician; particularly if you have been previously diagnosed with OSA.

Getting Tested for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Unfortunately, many individuals who have obstructive sleep apnoea continue to suffer in silence. If they happen to simultaneously develop non-allergenic rhinitis, the symptoms will dramatically worsen. This is why determining whether or not OSA is present is extremely important.

One of the best ways to obtain this type of clarity is to employ the use of an at-home sleep apnoea test kit. These units are
highly accurate and they will quickly determine whether further intervention is required.

You should then seek the advice of your physician or a trained sleep specialist. He or she will be able to provide the necessary guidance while recommending the appropriate lifestyle changes. Let’s never forget that obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious condition which requires treatment. If left to its own devices, your health can be placed at risk. OSA is associated with other illnesses such as:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke

Those who are unable to obtain a sound night of rest are also more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as malaise, anxiety, irritability, and even depression. So, there is no time better than the present to obtain an at-home sleep apnoea test kit.

The Bigger Picture: Lessening the Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

The good news is that there are many methods which are extremely effective at treating obstructive sleep apnoea if it happens to occur in tandem non-allergenic rhinitis.

The most common is the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This unit consists of a small motor-powered fan attached to a face mask. It will be used when sleeping, as the increased air pressure helps your airways to remain open.

Not only is this extremely beneficial in terms of treating OSA; but it will likewise enable you to breath clearer through your nasal passages. Certain units likewise contain a built-in humidifier; ideal if your non-allergenic rhinitis is caused by dry air.

Lifestyle Changes Are Essential

It is just as important to make certain lifestyle changes if you hope to avert the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea and non-allergenic rhinitis. Obtaining an adequate amount of exercise, quitting smoking, eating healthy, and losing weight are all extremely effective recommendations.

Above all, consult with your physician in order to be provided with even more targeted guidance and advice.

Nasal congestion and obstructive sleep apnoea share a number of factors in common and the presence of one will certainly exacerbate the symptoms of the other. This is why getting tested for OSA is very important.

There are numerous solutions at your disposal and the first step towards enjoying a restful night of sleep involves an accurate diagnosis. You will be pleasantly surprised at how seemingly minor changes can have a dramatic effect within a relatively short period of time.

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