Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder which affects many people. It can go undetected for long periods of time, because a person will usually have little memory of what happened during their sleeping hours. A person who has it will usually experience some or all of the symptoms of sleep apnea that will be mentioned in this article. The best way to determine if an individual has sleep apnea is by having their sleep recorded or monitored. However, there are a number of different symptoms which they may have. If someone suffers from several of these symptoms it is likely they will have sleep apnea, and they may need to seek professional medical advice.
Tell-Tale Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Excessive daytime tiredness – Although everybody has days where they feel very tired, people suffering from sleep apnea normally feel like this on a very regular basis, maybe even every day. Even if they have stayed in bed for a long time, they still feel tired when they get out of bed in the morning, and this tiredness can continue all day. This can be very dangerous for people in safety critical jobs or anyone who is doing something that requires a great deal of attention, such as driving. Somebody with sleep apnea may wake up every few minutes, so a nautral sleep cycle is completely disrupted.
- Chronic snoring – Many people who have sleep apnea are chronic snorers. However, snoring is not always a sleep apnea symptom.
- Loud snoring – People who have bad cases of sleep apnea may snore very loudly because the air cannot travel down their airway with ease. Loud snoring will normally disrupt the sleep of a sleeping partner.
- Pauses between breathing – This is another very common sign of sleep apnea. The airway may completely close in a person’s throat for several seconds or more
- Snorting, Choking and Gasping – If a person has sleep apnea and is breathing shallowly or intermittently, the brain panics because of low oxygen levels in the blood, and sends a signal abruptly wake the body so that the person suffering can resume normal breathing. The person may then start to snort, choke or gasp to try and inhale a great deal of oxygen to oxygenate the blood.
- Morning Headaches are a non-specific sign of sleep apnea, but are very common. The reason many people wake up with headaches may be because of low oxygen levels in the blood, and tiredness from not having a restful night’s sleep.
- Irritability – Due to constant tiredness during the day, many people with sleep apnea have a short temper, which can have a negative effect on both their home and work life.
Other Frequent Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Nocturia – This means going to the toilet frequently during the night. Older people with sleep apnea are more likely to get nocturia. However, when it occurs in a younger person, this can be a very telling symptom of sleep apnea. Evidence suggests that nocturia occurs because of the extra strain that is put on the right side of the heart, which secretes a hormone called ANP that acts as a diuretic. However, there are many other reasons why a person may suffer from nocturia.
- Swollen legs and ankles – Legs and ankles may swell because when the body is starved of oxygen, most of the blood flows to the vital organs to preserve them, and fluid can pool in the body’s extremities, particularly the legs.
- Restless sleep – Because the body is continually awoken in an uncomfortable fashion and someone with sleep apnea may feel excessive discomfort, they can find it very difficult to get to sleep, and may “toss and turn” throughout the night. This can be very disruptive for the sleeping partner of the person affected, as it will usually affect their sleep as well.
- Chest pain – People with sleep apnea may feel pain and discomfort in their chest. This is because their heart and lungs are forced to work much harder to transport the reduced amount of oxygen around the body. The body finds it hard to function effectively if it does not have the required amount of oxygen saturation levels in the blood. Reduced oxygen intake in the body can have devastating long-term effects
- Moodiness – Not enough time is spent in deep sleep, so somebody with sleep apnea may not feel rested and therefore be in a very bad mood throughout the day.
- Poor short term memory – In some bad cases, lack of short term memory can be as bad as patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The body cannot rest, and because the brain is not getting the required amount of oxygen for up to several hours a night, this can have a negative effect on the person’s short term memory.
- Anxiety – Evidence suggests that increased carbon dioxide levels in the brain due to the lack of oxygen being inhaled can affect the area of the brain associated with anxiety and even panic attacks.
- Depression – Constant feelings of irritability, anxiety and tiredness due to poor sleep cycles can ultimately lead to depression in people that suffer from any form of sleep apnea.
- Impotency – Sleep apnea and impotency are interlinked. Both involve a malfunction of different groups of nerves within the body. A significantly high amount of males who have sleep apnea also suffer from impotency.
- High blood pressure – Many people that have high blood pressure suffer from sleep apnea. When oxygen intake is reduced, the heart has to work especially hard to pump the blood round the body. This often leads to high blood pressure in people with sleep apnea, and this can worsen over prolonged periods of time.
It is very difficult to self-diagnose, as many of the symptoms above occur when you are asleep. Your sleeping partner may have noticed that you demonstrate some symptoms of sleep apnea that are mentioned above. If you think that you have sleep apnea you should seek professional medical help, there are many different treatments available, ranging from a change in lifestyle to medical procedures, depending on the severity of your condition.