Think you might have Sleep Apnea? Symptoms to look out for.
Are you struggling with getting a good night's sleep? Chances are, if you find yourself here, something has triggered you to consider the possibility that you may have sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder that causes breathing to stop and start throughout the evening, leaving the sufferer gasping for air and often waking up repetitively throughout the evening – causing a night of restless sleep and an uncomfortable morning wake-up.
There are various forms of sleep apnea. Central Sleep Apnea is a rarer form of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused because your brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles involved in controlling breathing. This type of sleep apnea doesn't occur because of upper airway obstruction like other forms of sleep apnea.
In comparison, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. Obstructive Sleep Apnea results in the muscles in the back of your throat relaxing to the degree that it stops normal breathing. While sleeping, these muscles relax and restrict the airway causing momentarily pauses in breathing throughout the night.
The risk of obstructive sleep apnea increases as people get older, and it is more common among men, overweight people, pregnant women, and back sleepers. While it's sometimes necessary to call in an expert and speak to a medical professional to get an official diagnosis, we will touch on some of the common symptoms of sleep apnea, so you know what to look out for in yourself or a loved one.
Sleep apnea must be treated to avoid long-term health problems and risk factors associated with the disorder, so recognising the symptoms is the first step to getting help and making a change. Once you have discovered you have sleep apnea, a number of lifestyle changes, for example, weight loss, can help you avoid the serious health problems linked to sleep apnea. Luckily, when sleep apnea is treated, you can prevent medical conditions that would otherwise have occurred if it was left untreated.
What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?
Those who suffer from sleep apnea often never feel fully rested, despite getting a full night's sleep. Due to the frequent awakenings that occur throughout the night with sleep apnea, those suffering from this disorder don't usually get a restful and restorative night's sleep. This lacklustre attempt at sleep results in daytime fogginess and lack of energy. This daytime sleepiness can be frustrating long-term and cause the sufferer to feel like they are living their lives in a daze. If you are constantly tired and struggle to maintain your energy levels throughout the day, this could be a symptom of sleep apnea.
Do you have frequent reports from your partner in the morning of your noisy nighttime activities? Or perhaps your partner's snoring stops you from getting a good night's sleep. Either way, loud snoring is not often a symptom that doesn’t often go under the radar. Usually, the type of snoring associated with sleep apnea is more audible than common snoring and is also followed by periods of silence. So, besides being an annoying addition to your nightly sleep routine, loud snoring can be a symptom of something more severe and is worth investigating.
Pauses To Breathing
However, it's important to note that not all sufferers of sleep apnea snore. There are other breathing symptoms you can look out for if this is the case. Because sleep apnea causes breathing disruption throughout the evening, the other signs to look out for are pauses in breathing or breathing becoming very shallow. Pauses to breathing are relatively easy to observe. If in doubt, ask a partner or loved one to monitor you while you sleep and see if they notice this pattern.
Waking Up Throughout The Night
Sufferers of sleep apnea often have a restless sleep that involves sleep disturbances. Sometimes these sleep disturbances can be accompanied by gasping for air or choking. This is undoubtedly an uncomfortable experience and indicates that you should look into seeing a medical professional about sleep apnea.
Waking Up With A Dry Mouth Or Sore Throat (or both)
Due to the uncomfortable breathing situation throughout the evening and the gasping for air after periods of not breathing, waking up with a dry mouth and sore throat are common symptoms of those suffering from sleep apnea. Suppose you find yourself reaching for a bottle of water immediately after waking up or having an uncomfortable sensation in your throat. In that case, this is another sign of potentially lurking sleep apnea.
Waking up first thing in the morning with a pounding head isn't exactly the ideal morning circumstance. Because sleep apnea occurs when your airway is partially or completely blocked during sleep. Because of this closure, your blood is less likely to transport oxygen to your brain, which can lead to headaches. So if this occurs regularly enough that you have ruled out alcohol as the cause and can't pin down why you are regularly waking up with a headache, it's possible that this could be a symptom of sleep apnea.
As we mentioned above, sleep apnea and the narrowed airway associated with sleep apnea means that less oxygen is transported to your brain. Because of these oxygen levels, your brain function may be affected for the entire day following poor sleep. In addition, studies have shown that sleep apnea affects driving abilities, indicating how this disorder may affect our day-to-day concentration and focus. So if you are experiencing difficulty concentrating when driving, working or experiencing excessive forgetfulness, it may be time to look into the possibility of sleep apnea.
The lack of restorative sleep caused by obstructive sleep apnea can result in mood swings, irritability and, in extreme cases, mood disorders such as depression. Feeling groggy and exhausted day after day isn't exactly the best environment to feel joyous day after day. If you have noticed yourself or a loved one not seeming quite like themselves, and they also seem to have a few other symptoms on this list, chances are looking into sleep apnea as the cause might be a good idea for you.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often associated with sleep apnea. For most people, blood pressure naturally drops in the evening by 10-20%. This lowering of blood pressure is often referred to as "blood pressure dipping". However, those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea usually see blood pressure dipping by less than 10%. This is referred to as "nondipping" blood pressure. Those who have nondipping blood pressure in the evenings have an increased risk of cardiovascular health problems.
When the Journal of Sleep Medicine ran a study in 2020 involving 182 males that had been recently diagnosed with sleep apnea, they found that a decrease in sex drive happened in around 60% of the men. So if you or your partner has a diminishing libido, it may be a symptom of sleep apnea.
Think You Have Sleep Apnea?
If you believe you may have sleep apnea, don't give up all hope, there are treatments available to help eliminate these symptoms so you can get back to having a comfortable, restful and restorative sleep. So where to from here?
Participate In An At Home Sleep Test
Taking a sleep test at home is an effective and straightforward way of checking if you suffer from sleep apnea. The best part? It’s simple, and no doctor’s recommendation is required. The device rests on your fingertip, plus there are no wires or restricted equipment. The device is TGA approved, and the results will be looked over by a qualified Sleep & Respiratory Physician (without the hefty expense of seeing a specialist consultant). If you can test over 3 nights, the results will be more accurate.
How to get started? Simply order your at-home sleep test here. From there, you will receive your test kit, including the at-home test sensor, finger wraps, and a unique activation code to access the ‘companion’ app. Open the app before bed and follow the simple instructions for using the sensor and recording your sleep. Once you have completed three nights of the test, a Sleep and Respiratory Physician will email you a sleep report within 3-5 days. Finally, you can book in with a sleep coach for a phone consultation (don’t worry, it’s included in the original test cost) to chat about your results and decide what the next best step for you is.
Trial A CPAP Machine
Trialling a CPAP machine can be an excellent way to see the difference in your sleep. If this is something you are looking to do, you can find more information here. To trial a CPAP machine, you must book an appointment and come into the clinic to speak to one of our experts. Trialling a CPAP machine in person is a great solution to ensure that your personal needs and requirements are considered before purchasing a machine.
We hope this article has helped you identify some of the symptoms associated with sleep apnea, and you can feel more confident to be on the lookout for these symptoms in you or your loved ones.