Could This Be Sleep Apnea?

You’re a smart person. But you can’t figure it out.

The puffiness and black circles seem to accompany that familiar face that stares back at you. You’re nodding off at work more than ever. It feels like the coffee machine is your best friend. Family members complain of your irritability, to which you know is true, but you haven’t always been that way.

You struggle to concentrate. You have morning headaches. You have been sleeping lighter than ever before and feel short of breath between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Does this sound familiar?

You’re a smart person. So you think it through.

I stay on my sleep schedule. I know that’s recommended. I usually sleep between 7-9 hours. No caffeine past 2:00 PM. Besides, that never keeps me awake anyway. No clock in my room and I don’t sleep with the TV on. Why, why, why?

I am glad you asked. You probably don’t relate completely with the scenario I created, but no doubt if you struggle with a good portion of it, you could have a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This disorder can manifest symptoms that the scenario laid out.

Recognizing the symptoms

Here are some symptoms of sleep apnea:1

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep (which would be reported by another person)
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Awakening with a dry mouth
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Irritability

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is defined by a medical dictionary as a “condition in which breathing stops for more than ten seconds during sleep.”2

The reason these episodes happen is your muscles (uvula, tonsils, the sidewalls of the throat and tongue) relax during your sleep causing the airway to narrow or in some cases, close.

You might think to yourself, At what point do I start breathing once again? That’s a great question! Your brain senses your struggle to breathe and signals your body to arouse. You might think, I don’t notice any arousing, therefore this must not apply to me. That’s a good point, but before you click off this article let me just say, these awakenings are very brief and aren’t noticeable by the person sleeping.

Sleep apnea has different degrees of severity, just like high blood pressure does. It’s classified as mild, moderate, or severe. The higher severity the more intense the symptoms are and depending on the severity it can lead to more life-altering health issues.

Know the risks of untreated sleep apnea

Perhaps you’ve studied through the scenario and symptoms and think to yourself, I just don’t know if I can do the testing or even can afford to do it. If I do get a diagnosis, what if I can’t follow through with the treatment?

I understand that mindset, but I do want to let you know what health problems can occur and worsen because of untreated sleep apnea:3

  • Breaking down of the immune system
  • High blood pressure (can make it worse if already diagnosed)
  • Depending on the severity, can lead to heart attacks
  • Severe sleep apnea can cause a stroke
  • Can lead to automobile accidents due to nodding off while driving

These are a few of the health consequences associated with undiagnosed/untreated sleep apnea. If you believe you have sleep apnea talk to your doctor.

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