Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder that causes repeated interruptions in breathing while you’re sleeping. Learning to recognize sleep apnea symptoms may help you protect both your health and your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
What You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea Symptoms
When someone suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat that normally support the soft tissue in the mouth and throat relax too much while the person is asleep. This narrows or closes their airway, causing them to experience apneas, or episodes where they stop breathing temporarily. Fortunately, the brain senses this disruption and takes action. It rouses the person, which reopens the airway and allows them to resume breathing. In many cases, this waking is so brief that the person doesn’t even notice. However, this cycle can have serious consequences. Sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. It can also damage the sufferer’s relationship with their partner, whose sleep is often interrupted.
Although sleep apnea occurs while you’re sleeping, there are numerous red flags that can alert you of the problem. Symptoms and signs of sleep apnea in adults include the following:
- You snore.
- You struggle with insomnia and have a hard time staying asleep.
- You sometimes wake up gasping for air or feeling like you’re choking.
- You sometimes wake up feeling short of breath.
- Your partner reports that you sometimes seem to stop breathing while sleeping.
- You wake up with a sore throat or a dry mouth.
- You frequently wake up to use the restroom.
- You often start your morning with a headache.
- You struggle with fatigue and daytime sleepiness.
- You lack energy.
- You’re having trouble with paying attention, concentrating, or remembering things.
- You’re irritable and prone to mood swings.
- You’re experiencing sexual dysfunction or a decrease in your libido.
- You have several risk factors for sleep apnea.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can affect anyone. However, there are certain things that can increase your risk of developing the condition (source):
- Dealing with chronic nighttime nasal congestion doubles your risk of sleep apnea.
- Carrying extra weight can lead to fat deposits around the upper airway that can worsen an obstruction.
- Smoking raises the risk of developing many health problems, including sleep apnea.
- Having a narrowed airway can be a natural feature or the result of enlarged tonsils or adenoids, but whatever its cause, it increases your risk of sleep apnea.
- Living with asthma may up your sleep apnea risk.
- Having high blood pressure is a trait many sleep apnea sufferers share.
- Being diabetic seems to increase the odds of developing sleep apnea.
- Having a family history of sleep apnea can also raise your risk of developing the condition.
Treating Sleep Apnea
If you have any concerns about sleep apnea, talk with your doctor. A simple sleep study can lead to a diagnosis, and a variety of effective treatments are available. Some patients benefit from lifestyle changes like exercising regularly, treating nasal allergies, quitting smoking, or changing their sleep position. Limiting alcohol and sedative medications can also be helpful. Other patients find that using a night guard (an oral appliance that positions the jaw forward to keep the airway open) does the trick. Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is another effective therapy that uses a machine to deliver a steady flow of air that provides enough pressure to keep the airway open.
At the Crossings at Riverview, we understand that maintaining healthy habits helps people of all ages stay active, alert, and engaged in the world around them.
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