Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders afflicting millions of adults. Many people may not know that a sleep disorder is the underlying source of their health problems. Others may be aware of their sleep disorder but ignorant of the severe consequences of untreated sleep apnea.
It can be tough to identify sleep apnea on your own since it only occurs when you’re asleep, but you can get around this difficulty by recording yourself during sleep or by asking a bed partner to observe your sleep habits. If it is observed that pauses occur while you snore, and if choking or gasping follows the pauses, these are major warning signs that you have sleep apnea.
Forms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent breaks or pauses in breathing during sleep, and there are 3 forms of sleep apnea:
- Central sleep apnea (CSA) in which the pauses in breathing are due to the brain failing to signal the respiratory system to breathe.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in which breathing is interrupted by a physical blockage in the upper airways, often caused by soft tissues of the throat and tongue collapsing into the airway.
- Complex/mixed sleep apnea which is a combination of both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common form of sleep apneas.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The most common signs and symptoms of sleep apneas include:
- Loud snoring: While snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the person has the disorder, since many people who snore don’t have sleep apnea, and some people with sleep apnea don’t snore. However, if you snore loudly, in a disruptive, and nightly basis, it could very well be a sign of sleep apnea, and you may want to talk to your primary care physician.
- A morning headache
- Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep. This can be witnessed by another person
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath.
- Wakening up with a dry mouth or a sore throat
- Excessive daytime drowsiness: this daytime drowsiness can even lead to serious accidents or even death especially if the sufferer is driving or working on or around heavy equipment or machines.
- Problem with concentration
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Similarly, not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. So, the biggest identifying sign is how you feel during the day.
The normal infrequent snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea does. Thus, you’re less likely to suffer from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
Record yourself sleeping and note how loud and frequent your snoring is. You can as well ask your sleep partner to keep track of your snoring. If you’re gasping, choking, or making other unusual sounds, then you may have sleep apnea. Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, a snoring problem can get in the way of your own sleep quality and health and that of your bed partner’s rest too.