What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
- Observed Episodes of Stopped Breathing During Sleep
- Loud Snoring
- Waking Up with a Headache
- Waking Up Choking or Gasping
- Concentration Problems
- Irritability and Mood Swings
Most of us may associate sleep apnea with snoring and some might assume that those who snore have this condition. However, there’s more to explore about the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a chronic and prevalent sleep disorder characterized by repeated episodes of complete or partial upper airway obstruction during sleep. As a result, the signs of this sleep condition often lead to poor sleep quality. Studies suggest that 2 to 5% of adult women and 3 to 7% of adult men suffer from symptomatic sleep apnea.
Normally, airflow is facilitated from the mouth or nose, then into the lungs. The periods when breathing stops are referred to as sleep apnea or apneic episodes. Lack of oxygen from sleep apnea causes sleep fragmentation. This disrupts the natural sleep rhythm, which means you acquire less restorative sleep needed to be mentally sharp and productive for the next day.
Sleep apnea has been identified as a risk factor for other conditions like systemic hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Studies have also shown that it is a condition that can lead to sudden cardiac death. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of sleep apnea and assess whether you need to see a doctor for treating the condition.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Sleep apnea symptoms differ from person to person. Excessive daytime sleepiness is the most common symptom noticed by sleep apnea sufferers that live alone.
The deterioration of your sleep quality is the primary effect of this disorder. Excessive daytime sleepiness leads to impaired cognitive functions, work performance, and exhaustion during the day.
Observed Episodes of Stopped Breathing During Sleep
It can be hard to identify sleep apnea on your own because the most prominent symptoms only occur during sleep. If you can ask someone to observe your sleep habits, you can get around this difficulty and determine episodes of stopped breathing.
Sleeping partners can also help report any abnormalities during the night like heavy snoring and/or breathing problems/pauses during sleep. Early detection aids in finding the appropriate therapy for those with sleep apnea so that they can counteract serious health problems.
Sleep apnea takes place when the muscles supporting soft tissues in the throat (i.e. tongue and soft palate) go into temporary relaxation. Afterwards, your airway is narrowed or closed and breathing is momentarily cut off. If pauses in breathing occur while you snore or if choking or gasping follows the pauses, these are major sleep apnea warning signs and should be checked by a medical professional immediately.
Loud snoring is a sign of obstructive sleep apnea that is caused by airflow unable to properly pass through a narrow airway space.
Most people may know that frequent snoring is a sign of this sleep disorder, but not everyone who snores will necessarily be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. This causes confusion, which is why many cases of this medical condition are left undiagnosed.
If your snoring is accompanied by other symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness and observed instances of stopped breathing during sleep, it may be an indication to see a doctor for further evaluation.
Given that sleep apnea is associated with loud snoring, gasping, and choking, it may cause you to briefly wake up periodically. These repeated awakenings can be underlying factors for restless sleep or insomnia.
Waking Up With A Headache
Headaches, specifically those occurring in the morning upon waking up, can be associated with sleep apnea symptoms. When you suffer from sleep apnea, your airways may either be partially or completely blocked during slumber. During this temporary closure, the amount of oxygen in the blood that is transported to the brain is reduced, which puts you at risk for headaches.
Despite not being as common as excessive daytime sleepiness or unrefreshing sleep, headaches from sleep apnea can similarly impair everyday activities.
Waking Up Choking
Proper airflow is disrupted during apneic episodes and oxygen levels drop. Your brain responds to this scenario by briefly disrupting your sleep to kick start breathing, which often resumes with a gasp or choking sensation.
The lack of quality sleep following sleep apnea can lead to concentration problems the next day. Alongside excessive daytime sleepiness, you can become forgetful and suffer from an increased risk of errors while doing daily activities. You may also have a limited attention span, rendering you unable to focus even on simple activities.
Irritability and Mood Swings
People with sleep apnea might also suffer from unexplained irritability and mood swings. This is because the breathing interruptions that continually wake them up prevents getting deep and nourishing sleep.
Sleep and mood disorders are closely linked. When you don’t get enough sleep as a result of sleep apnea, the body’s stress levels increase, leading to negative moods like anger, irritability, frustration, or sadness.
As you can see, exhibiting the symptoms of sleep apnea is not something that you should take lightly. It is a sleep disorder that is difficult to detect, hence it’s important to seek the help of your sleeping partner. If they notice any abnormalities when you sleep, you should consider consulting your doctor for further examination and intervention if necessary.