If your partner or roommate complains that you snore when you sleep, you might feel embarrassed, but it should raise some concerns. If you get complaints about your snoring and experience excessive tiredness throughout your day, you may have a serious medical condition called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes your breathing to stop and start during sleep. If you find yourself choking or gasping after these pauses in breathing, it is a red flag for sleep apnea, and you should seek evaluation and treatment.
Why Sleep Apnea Is Problematic
One reason sleep apnea is problematic is that you may have these cycles of breathing pauses hundreds of times throughout the night. You may be gasping or choking only to wake yourself up, and this is a problem as it prevents you from entering your necessary, natural sleep rhythm. Over time, you could end up with sleep deprivation, affecting your physical and emotional health. Your body and brain need sleep to stay healthy and function properly, but sleep apnea can leave you perpetually exhausted with insufficient energy to carry you through your day.
Long-term untreated sleep apnea can leave you vulnerable to a variety of health problems:
- Arrhythmia, such AFib or as heart flutters
- Cognitive issues
- Heart attack or heart failure
- High blood pressure
Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs. Central Sleep Apnea
For the two main types of sleep apnea, there are different causes and treatments.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): OSA is the most common version and happens when the throat muscles relax, and narrowing or closing the airway in the back of the throat, blocking normal airflow. It is usually treated with a CPAP machine that blows pressurized air into your windpipe to keep it open so you can breathe. For people with obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is often loudest when you sleep on your back and lessens when you roll over onto your side.
- Central Sleep apnea (CSA): CSA is a neurological issue that arises when the brain doesn’t signal the body to breathe as you sleep, even though your airways are perfectly fine. It leaves a buildup of carbon dioxide in your body and your oxygen levels to drop. It is treatable with a CPAP, Bi-level machine, or adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV), which measures your breathing and adjusts the pressure levels to your breathing pattern.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
What should you be looking for to know whether or not you do have sleep apnea and seek treatment? Whether you enlist your partner’s help or record yourself while you sleep, you need to figure out if you have sleep apnea so you can seek treatment.
Red Flags for Sleep Apnea
- You consistently and loudly snore.
- Your breathing pauses repeatedly.
- You wake up feeling like you can’t breathe.
- Your body reacts by choking, snorting or gasping in your sleep.
- You have insomnia (where you have trouble staying asleep).
- Your day is marked by exhaustion and sleepiness (hypersomnia) even after a long night’s sleep.
Other Signs to Look out For
- A dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up
- Waking up at night and not being able to sleep
- Getting up to visit the bathroom several times a night
- Having problems concentrating and being forgetful during the day
- Constantly feeling irritable, depressed or have mood swings
- Waking up to headaches
- Reduced libido or impotence
Schedule an Evaluation
The main signs and symptoms to look out for is how you feel and perform during your day. Sleep apnea leaves you feeling worse while snoring alone doesn’t do anything to your sleep quality (except annoy your partner). As you can see, sleep apnea is a serious condition and should never be ignored. If you feel that you might be suffering from sleep apnea, we welcome you to reach out to our team to learn more. We want to help you get the sleep you need so you can live a happier, healthier life!