Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a health issue that affects as many as 10% of adults in the U.S. today. It's a sleep disorder that causes interruptions in breathing, keeping oxygen from getting into the body, and often leading to restless sleep.
Sufferers who don't treat their sleep apnea face many serious health risks, including high blood pressure (hypertension), irregular heartbeat, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, and others. They also rarely enjoy a restful night's sleep, leading to chronic fatigue and even a greater risk of traffic accidents.
That's why it's important to understand the symptoms of sleep apnea and learn to spot the signs so you can seek a diagnosis from a sleep doctor. Getting the right treatment for OSA can make a huge difference in sleep quality and help prevent more serious health problems!
The symptoms of sleep apnea are broken down into two main categories: night-time symptoms and day-time symptoms.
Night-Time Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Because OSA is a sleep disorder, most of the night-time symptoms are related to sleep quality and duration.
1. Frequent Loud Snoring
Many people snore. Although it's more common for men and those who are overweight, women and children are also diagnosed with OSA. The condition also tends to get worse as people get older. Snoring occasionally is not always a serious issue, but it can be a distraction for your bed-partner! However, frequent, persistent loud snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, as airways are obstructed and breathing is more difficult.
2. Pauses in Breathing
This symptom needs to be observed by a bed-partner, loved one, or sleep specialist. Sleep apneas like OSA cause sufferers to stop breathing, often for ten seconds at a time or longer. Not only does this lead to low blood-oxygen levels, which causes many health issues, it can also contribute to our next night-time symptom.
3. Gasping for Air or Choking
Since sleep apnea sufferers often experience pauses in breathing while sleeping, they will also experience choking or gasping for air occasionally. These breathing issues may or may not cause the sufferer to wake up, but they will affect sleep quality. It's another symptom that should be observed by someone other than the sufferer.
4. Poor or Restless Sleep & Insomnia
It's easy to see why and how the previous three night-time symptoms cause OSA sufferers to experience restless sleep, poor sleep quality, and symptoms of insomnia. Persistent breathing issues while sleeping simply makes it tough to sleep through the night.
5. Frequent Bathroom Visits
As sleep apnea sufferers tend to wake up repeatedly during the night, they often make more frequent trips to the bathroom than they might during a restful night of sleep.
Day-Time Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Breathing problems and poor sleep quality at night leads to a variety of issues and symptoms throughout the day.
1. Waking Up with a Headache or Sore Throat
Low blood-oxygen levels and gasping for air during the night can cause sleep apnea sufferers to wake up regularly with a sore, dry throat and a painful morning headache.
2. Chronic Fatigue
Restful sleep is incredibly important to our quality of life, energy, mood, and even brain function. We've all felt tired after a bad night's sleep, but OSA causes sufferers to feel sleepy and lack energy during the day, every day.
3. Issues with Concentration
Brain function is affected by poor sleep quality, so sleep apnea sufferers often experience problems with concentration, forgetfulness, and memory.
4. Moodiness, Irritability, & Depression
Sleep apnea sufferers may have brain-chemistry issues like mood swings or changes, persistent irritability, and even symptoms of depression. OSA is also known to cause decreased interest in sex.
5. Falling Asleep During Normal Daily Activities
With chronic fatigue also comes persistent feelings of sleepiness, which can cause the sufferer to nod-off during the day, whether it's during a meeting at work or even while driving. This symptom is both unproductive and potentially very dangerous!
What to Do If You See the Signs of Sleep Apnea
Seeing one or or two signs of sleep apnea doesn't always mean someone has it. However, if you or a loved one experiences many of these issues on a regular basis, it's very important to seek a diagnosis from a sleep doctor. Not getting the right treatment for OSA can greatly increase the risks of heart attack, stroke, and other serious health problems.
It's also not something that can be self-diagnosed—proper OSA diagnosis requires an overnight sleep test, supervised by a qualified medical professional. During this test, the sleep doctor will collect detailed medical data as you sleep, using sensors to record how your brain, lungs, heart, and muscles are functioning. Only after examining your sleep data carefully can a sleep doctor diagnose sleep apnea and plan a proper treatment.Sleep Apnea - Do you have loud snoring? Do you sometimes gasp for air or stop breathing in sleep? You may have the most common but widely untreated sleep disorder: sleep apnea.
The good news is that you or your loved one with sleep apnea have nothing to fear! Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is an effective treatment for OSA, and with ® CPAP mask liners, it's comfortable and easy, too!