Can you believe that 22 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep apnea? While sleep apnea is treatable, 80% of the cases go undiagnosed. Why aren’t people seeking treatment for their sleep apnea? Unfortunately, not enough Americans recognize they have the disorder. What causes sleep apnea? What are the warning signs of sleep apnea? How is sleep apnea treated?
Keep reading to learn all of the answers to your sleep apnea questions.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
To identify the warning signs of sleep apnea, you must first understand the different types of the disorder. There are three variations of sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type. The tongue collapses against the back of the throat while a person sleeps, blocking airways. When left untreated, OSA can lead to cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and severe fatigue.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not signal to the muscles to continue breathing while the body is sleeping. It creates disruptions in breathing patterns throughout the night.
Complex sleep apnea is a combination of OSA and central sleep apnea. The brain sends disrupted breathing signals. As it does, the tongue blocks the airways and prevents breathing.
What Are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea?
While sleep apnea can disrupt your lifestyle, many people don’t realize they have it. As many as 90% of patients with OSA don’t know they have the disorder. This is dangerous.
How do you know if you have one of these types of sleep apnea? We’ve explained the common warning signs below.
1. You Make a Lot Of Noises While You Sleep
Obstructive sleep apnea leads to a noisy slumber. If you’ve ever been told that you’re a loud sleeper, you may have sleep apnea.
The noises occur as a result of a person stopping and starting breathing throughout the night. As the tongue falls back against the throat, it causes loud snoring, choking, and gasping sounds. Many people with OSA wake up with a sore or dry throat in the morning.
The noises can be so loud they disrupt your sleep. But more commonly, loud snoring and nighttime noises keep a partner awake.
2. You Often Feel Tired During the Day
All three versions of sleep apnea impact sleep quality. Sleep apnea prevents natural breathing throughout the night, leading to frequent disruptions and restlessness. The result is chronic fatigue.
Many people with sleep apnea report excessive daytime sleepiness (known as hypersomnia), grogginess, and difficulty concentrating during the day.
Excessive tiredness is dangerous. It can lead to poor work performance and make it unsafe for a person to go about their day.
Research shows that individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are at an increased risk of an auto accident, and untreated sleep apnea is a significant contributor to motor vehicle crashes.
3. You’re Restless at Night
As your body struggles to breathe during the night, you may find yourself feeling restless.
Many people with sleep apnea toss and turn throughout the night. They wake up tangled in their seats, or their partner may complain of frequent thrashing, kicking, or jerking around during the night. Night sweats are also common in people with sleep apnea.
4. You Possess Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
Fitting the profile of a typical sleep apnea patient is another warning sign of the disorder.
Medical researchers have found links between smoking, asthma, type 2 diabetes, chronic nasal congestion, and the development of obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is most common in males. Men are twice as likely to develop the disorder compared to women. And while women of all ages can develop OSA, it’s most frequent in those who have gone through menopause.
The majority of patients with OSA are also overweight. Fat deposits develop around the upper airway and obstruct breathing.
The size of your airway also contributes to obstructive sleep apnea. People with narrowed airways are more likely to suffer from breathing problems. Other obstacles, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, can also create blockages and cause OSA.
Finally, genetics plays a role. Those with a family history of sleep apnea are more likely to develop the disorder.
5. You Experience Morning Headaches
Frequent headaches when you wake up in the morning are a warning sign of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea causes breathing blockages the lead to reduced oxygen flow throughout the body. Less oxygen in your blood means less oxygen travels to your brain. The decrease in oxygen levels in the brain during the night can lead to headache or migraine in the morning.
6. You’ve Noticed Changes With Your Mental Health
We need adequate sleep to function. But sleep apnea prevents a good night’s sleep, which creates issues for our brain.
Frequent restless nights can lead to a variety of mental health problems, including:
- Mood changes
- Decreased libido
Changes in how you think, feel, and behave are warning signs that something isn’t right. If you recognize shifts in your mental health, it could be a sign you’re suffering from sleep apnea.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
If you recognize the warning signs of sleep apnea, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. You may undergo different sleep tests to determine if and why you have sleep apnea.
Once you receive a nursing diagnosis for sleep apnea, you can start receiving treatment and improving your sleep quality.
Common sleep apnea treatment options include:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
- Supplemental oxygen
- Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV)
In addition, your doctor may prescribe medications to alleviate medical problems caused by sleep apnea (such as high blood pressure).
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to treat sleep apnea. The procedure may include tissue removal, jaw repositioning, implants, nerve stimulation, or a tracheostomy.
Keep Learning More
It’s essential to know the answer to “what are the warning signs of sleep apnea?” Without recognizing the symptoms, sleep apnea can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.
Do you want to continue learning? If so, you’re in the right place. Check out our blog for more informational articles and continue expanding your knowledge.