Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep apnea is a debilitating and potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing can repeatedly stop and start during the course of a single evening. Though sometimes determining whether or not you have sleep apnea can be difficult, there are many common signs and sleep apnea symptoms to be aware of. Common sleep apnea symptoms include:
- loud snoring (usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea)
- episodes of breathing cessation during sleep (as witnessed by another person)
- abrupt awakenings that are accompanied by shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath
- waking up with a very dry mouth or a sore throat
- morning headaches or migraines
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- difficulty focusing or paying attention
- irritability or anxiety
If you suffer from any of these symptoms it is recommended to consult a medical professional to determine a cause and the type of sleep apnea you may have.
There are three distinct types of sleep apnea, they are:
- central sleep apnea,
- obstructive sleep apnea,
- complex sleep apnea.
Determining your exact type of sleep apnea isn’t always simple and may require an overnight visit to a sleep study clinic. If you experience any snoring loud enough to disturb others or gasping or choking that awakens you from sleep, you should consult doctor immediately.
What is Sleep Apnea?
There’s a reason why sleep apnea is taken from the Greek word “apnea,” the term literally means “without breath.” What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can cause the involuntary cessation of breathing in the body while an individual is sleeping. There are currently three types of diagnosed sleep apnea: obstructive, central and mixed or complex sleep apnea. The most common of the three is obstructive sleep apnea, which is also known as OSA. In all three types of sleep apnea an individual will repeatedly stop breathing during their sleep. This can sometimes happen hundreds of time during a single night often for one minute or longer. If left untreated, sleep apnea symptoms can pose serious and life shortening consequences. High blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and other ailments have all been attributed to sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can affect all genders, races, and ages. Though it is a non-discriminatory disease it is often seen more frequently in men, particularly African-American and Hispanic men. While it is not known why certain genders or races can experience higher bouts of sleep apnea, it is clear that sleep apnea can be a debilitating disease. The most common symptom of sleep apnea is extremely loud and disturbing snoring. Often times the snoring will be so loud and abrupt that a bed partner may find it intolerable. Other indications of a sleep apnea disorder include obesity, daytime sleepiness, headaches and dry mouth. Despite the commonality of these symptoms, they are not always present, thus making sleep apnea difficult to diagnose and treat.
The only way to truly determine if you suffer from sleep apnea is to undergo a sleep study. A sleep study is done in a sleep laboratory. At home sleep studies can also be conducted but they tend to be less accurate. In a sleep laboratory, your sleep will be monitored by a team of doctors who will determine the exact cause of your sleep apnea symptoms and any potential risk factors they pose. As is the case with all medical conditions, you should always consult and speak with a physician if you’re experiencing any symptoms. Though it can be scary or intimidating at first a doctor can diagnose, treat, and help you to return back to your most healthy form!
What causes Sleep Apnea?
There are two very common types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. What causes sleep apnea can vary depending on the type of sleep apnea symptoms you are experiencing.
Obstructive sleep apnea tends to occur when the muscles located in the back of the throat are very relaxed. These muscles work together to support the soft palate, or the triangle shaped piece of tissue that hangs from the soft palate, the tonsils, the throat, and the tongue. When the muscles are too relaxed, the airways of your throat can narrow or close too tightly as you breath in. This constricting motion does not make it easy to get an adequate breath into the body. Over a period of time, this can lower the oxygen level in your bread, causing distress to the body.
When the brain senses that you are unable to breath it will send signals to rouse you from your sleep, thus allowing you to reopen your airway and catch your breath. Though some people with sleep apnea will remember their periods of waking up most do not. Many times it is up to a partner or roommate to help diagnose sleep apnea symptoms as the sufferer may be unaware of their condition. For example, many with obstructive sleep apnea will make a snorting or choking sound. This sound will repeat itself in a pattern, sometimes 30 or more times an hour, for the duration of the night. Not only can these disruptions cause difficulty breathing but they will keep you from having a sound night’s sleep. Since you will not be able to completely enter in to restful phases of sleep, you’ll likely feel quite sleep during your waking hours. Individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are typically not even aware of their sleep apnea symptoms. Some even believe they sleep well at night!
Central sleep apnea is less common but causes are similar to that of obstructive sleep apnea. This form of sleep apnea is typically caused by the brain. When the brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing, the muscles of the body will make no effort to breath for a given period of time. Because of this you will likely awaken with shortness of breath and have a very hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep. Central sleep apnea is typically more difficult to diagnose as symptoms can be very similar or exactly the same as those of obstructive sleep apnea.
What causes both types of sleep apnea? There are a few risk factors to keep in mind if you’re experiencing sleep apnea symptoms. Excess weight can be the biggest factor in individuals who suffer from sleep apnea disorders. Research has shown that individuals who are obese have a four times higher likelihood of developing sleep apnea over someone who is at a normal or healthy weight. This is because fat deposits located around the upper airway of the body may obstruct your ability to breath.
Though not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight, it can increase one’s risk of developing the condition. If you are experiencing any sleep apnea symptoms you should always consult a qualified physician and seek treatment. Being informed on your symptoms and condition is great, but you’ll need the guidance of a doctor to find yourself on the path to wellness.