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Sleep Apnea

Snoring & Health

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Sleep and Lifestyle

Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep apnea is a disruptive condition that can affect your quality of sleep and even your overall health. If your sleep apnea is severe enough, it can wake you up dozens of times a night without you even realizing it. Keep reading to find out more about sleep apnea and some of the common symptoms associated with this condition. If you can't sleep at night and wake up felling tired you may be suffering from this disorder

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. This condition occurs when there is some sort of blockage of the airway as you're sleeping. The cause of an obstructed airway is usually the tissues in your neck and throat relaxing as you sleep. If this condition occurs, you may notice some of the following symptoms.

  • Loud or excessive snoring
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Feeling tired or run down during the day
  • Waking up with a headache every day
  • Feelings of depression, and also mood swings
  • Having a difficult time concentrating

It's possible to suffer from sleep apnea for a long period of time and never suspect you have the condition. In fact, sleep apnea is often noticed by someone's bed partner before the person actually experiencing the condition. It can be complicated to diagnose because excessive snoring does not mean you automatically have sleep apnea. The best way to proceed is to speak with your doctor if you suspect you have some of these common sleep apnea symptoms.

Causes of Sleep Apnea in Men and Women

Sleep apnea can affect every age group, and males and females alike. There is an increased risk of developing sleep apnea if you are overweight, or smoke cigarettes. There is also a slight increase in risk if you are male, and people over 65 years of age seem to develop sleep apnea more often than younger people. Larger than normal tonsils and adenoids will also increase your chances of developing this condition.

What To Do If You Have Sleep Apnea

There are some things you can try on your own if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Things like losing weight and quitting smoking will help your condition, as well as avoiding alcohol and caffeine, especially right before bedtime. Some sleep apnea sufferers also report that sleeping on your side will help to reduce the effects of this condition.

Sleep apnea can be a contributing factor in illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity and also frequent and severe headaches. There are tests available to diagnose your condition, and a talk with your doctor will put you on the right path towards eliminating the very treatable problem.

If some of these symptoms sound familiar to you and you suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you should speak with your doctor about it. Your doctor will be able to recommend tests to diagnose your condition and treatments that will help you with this frustrating condition.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Quick Overview of OSA

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), in medical terms, is the obstruction of the upper airway, which results from the collapse or excess of soft tissue in the tonsillar pillar, tongue and its base, soft palate and hypo-pharyngeal wall. The word ‘apnea’ means cessation of breath. In simpler words, it is a serious sleeping disorder, which causes repeated cessation of breathing during sleep.

The most common sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring, with which all of us are quite familiar. There is no specific age for developing sleep apnea, but mostly middle-aged and older adults, and overweight people suffer from it. People, who have apnea, may not breathe for short intervals up to a hundred times in a single night.

Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea may involve using a device for keeping the airway open, or may be; the placing of a mouth piece to push your jaw forward during sleep. Some people are even recommended to go through procedures to get the structure of their mouth, nose or throat altered.

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Symptoms of OSA

Patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are usually not the ones who notice its signs. The person sleeping next to the patient or within the room often notices it first. Many people with OSA may not even complain about having any problem with sleeping.

Here is a full list of symptoms that are mostly noticed in middle-aged people and the elderly suffering from obstructive sleep apnea:

  • A sore throat or dry mouth upon waking up after sleep
  • Morning headaches right after waking up
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty in waking up in the morning
  • Sleepiness during daytime or fatigue
  • Restlessness during sleeping
  • Loud snoring
  • Sensation with sudden awakenings due to gasping or choking-like feelings
  • Intellectual impairment like irritability, forgetfulness, etc.
  • Poor mental functioning and lack of concentration during day. May affect the performance at work as well.
  • Depression
  • Not feeling fresh upon waking
  • Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep
  • Mood swings
  • Awakening with chest pain
  • Sexual dysfunction

Following are some symptoms found in children that may not be as obvious as that of adults:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Snoring
  • Too much sweating during sleeping
  • Bedwetting
  • Unusual sleeping positions – with neck hyper-extended, sleeping on knees and hands
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Difficulty in concentrating and poor performance
  • Difficulty in learning
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Repeated pauses in breathing
  • Daytime mouth breathing
  • Sleepiness or sluggishness
  • Drooling or choking
  • Inward motion of the ribcage when inhaling

Factors Associated with OSA

As mentioned earlier, anyone including children; can be affected by OSA, but there are several set of conditions that can put you at high risk and cause sleep apnea.

  • Neck Circumference – Having a thicker neck may result in a narrower airway, hence causing the apnea to be more severe.
  • Males – According to various surveys, men are mostly likely to develop apnea. On the other hand, women may also develop it if they are overweight. Their risk factor also enhances after menopause.
  • Excess Weight – Fat around the upper airway can cause hindrance in your breathing. However, it is not necessary that if you are overweight, you will have sleep apnea; thin people also have this problem.
  • Family History – If your family members have OSA, then there is a high probability that you will also have it.
  • A Narrowed Airway – You are mostly likely to have apnea if you have a narrowed airway. Apart from this, enlargement of adenoids or tonsils also causes sleep apnea.
  • Being Older – Sleep apnea is more frequently seen in people older than 60 years.
  • Nasal Congestion – If you have difficulty in breathing through your nose or have nasal congestion, then you are more probable to have OSA.
  • Use of Sedative, Alcohol, Tranquilizers or Smoking – Alcohol, sedatives and tranquilizers relax the muscles in your throat for good, if abused frequently. Smokers are 3 times more prone to develop OSA than people who have never smoked. Smoking causes fluid retention and increases amount of inflammation in the upper airway.

Signs that Indicate it is Time to See a Doctor

It is highly recommended that you consult a doctor if your friend or partner notices or you experience the following:

  • Shortness of breath that wakes you up while sleeping
  • Irregular cessation in breathing during sleep
  • Snoring loud enough to disrupt yours or others’ sleep
  • Excessive sleepiness and tiredness during daytime, which can cause you to fall asleep (also known as hypersomnia) when watching television, at workplace during working or even while driving

Although many people do not take snoring as a serious problem, but to stay on the safe side, be sure to consult your doctor if the snoring is loud, especially when it is after irregular intervals.

General Measures for OSA

Here are some measures that can significantly suppress OSA and may even help you get rid of this problem.

  • Avoid consumption of alcohol 4-6 hours before going to sleep
  • Quit smoking if you are a smoker
  • Avoid using sedative drugs
  • Lose weight if you are obese or overweight

For advanced treatments, there are advanced mandibular devices available these days, which can be placed inside the mouth during sleeping for uninterrupted airflow through the airways. You can also opt for surgery, which enables good airflow through the airways in your body. However, OSA is a problem that should not be taken lightly and must be given due importance for a healthier life.