We all experience days when we are not at our best due to a difficult night’s sleep. But some days you may feel tired and foggy, even after having a full night’s rest. This grogginess can be a sign of something more serious.
Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious sleep disorder in which your breathing is repeatedly interrupted while you are asleep. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause health issues, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It can even increase the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.
What is Sleep Apnea?
It is a sleep disorder characterized by frequent episodes of paused breathing during sleep. People with this often feel exhausted during the day. This is a sign that the brain is not getting sufficient oxygen to function properly.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most common types. It is caused by the muscles in the throat collapsing and creating a full or partial blockage of airflow.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most common type. It is caused by the muscles in the throat collapsing and creating a full or partial blockage of airflow.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Many people suffering from this are often unaware that they wake up multiple times during the night. The only thing they know is that they feel tired during the day. However, it comes with other signs that the sufferer or their partner may notice. Some of the warning signs are:
1. Noisy Sleeping
Snoring and gasping are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea. Noisy sleep is the first warning sign that your upper airway may be obstructed. All snoring is not necessarily due to this, but the two generally go hand in hand. However, as snoring gets louder and deeper, the chance of having sleep apnea tends to be higher.
2. Restlessness During Sleep
People with sleep apnea are prone to toss and turn while sleeping. If you find that you are moving around and waking up in the night, apnea might be the cause.
3. Always Feeling Tired
If you still feel tired after a good night’s sleep, there is a possibility that you’re being affected by the quality of your sleep. Feeling tired, irritable, and frequently catching colds are all common signs of sleep apnea.
Here are some of the other symptoms that indicate you may be suffering from sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring
- Noticing that you have stopped breathing during sleep
- Gasping, struggling to breathe and waking up during sleep
- Dry mouth or throat upon waking
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Drowsiness while driving
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Decreased libido and erectile dysfunction
Who gets sleep apnea?
Studies show that sleep apnea occurs in about 25% of men and around 10% of women. It can also affect people of all age groups and even occurs among babies and children. However, this disorder primarily affects people over 50 years of age who are overweight.
Those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea typically share certain physical traits. These include a larger neck circumference, excessive weight, and structural features that reduce the upper airway diameter. These anomalies include nasal obstruction, a low hanging soft palate, enlarged tonsils, or small jaw with an overbite.
Am I at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea disorder can affect any age group, even children, but certain factors put you more at risk. Below are some of the characteristics that are common among sufferers of sleep apnea:
- Being overweight
- Over 40 years of age
- Large neck size (17 inches or more in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
- Large tonsils, large tongue or small jaw bone
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Nasal blockages due to allergies, sinus problems or a deviated septum
- Down Syndrome
What Are the Effects of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that, if left untreated, can increase the risk of other serious health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and heart attacks
- Worsened ADHD
Sleep apnea may also be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities at work or driving a motor vehicle. Children and teens may experience underachievement in school work due to the side effects of sleep apnea.
Those suffering from central sleep apnea have often reported recurrent awakening or insomnia.
When to See a Doctor
If you are experiencing any of the warning signs of sleep apnea, then it is recommended that you consult your doctor. They will know your medical history and risk factors and can advise according to your individual needs.
Your doctor may give you a referral for a polysomnography test, commonly known as a sleep study, that helps diagnose sleep apnea. This test monitors brain waves, eye movement, breathing, and oxygen levels in the blood during sleep.
If your child or toddler is showing any signs of sleep apnea, you should consult your pediatrician. Typically, they will refer you to an otolaryngologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist.
Sleep apnea is one of the most common disorders among older adults, but it should not be overlooked as a possibility in children and young adults, too.
If you are experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns, symptoms, and treatment. A healthier, more productive life through better sleep could soon be yours.