Many people have harmless episodes of snoring that aren’t a cause for concern. Habitual snoring is relatively common, occurring in about 40% of adult men and 24% of adult women.
But for some people, snoring is a sign of sleep apnea, a disorder in which you repeatedly stop breathing for at least 10 seconds while you’re asleep. In obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the condition, your throat muscles collapse and fill your airway, so you must awaken briefly to resume breathing.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea because the condition can cause more than restless sleep. According to a Johns Hopkins study, people with sleep apnea often have high blood pressure and higher-than-normal levels of glucose, free fatty acids, and stress hormones in the blood. Over time, these factors increase your risk of life-threatening health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Our sleep apnea specialist, Dr. Wade Han, at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center provides expert diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea. Dr. Han has the expertise necessary to identify the cause of your sleep apnea and resolve it so you can achieve better sleep and protect your well-being,
Dr. Han shares five common symptoms of sleep apnea to help you know if you may be experiencing this treatable condition.
#1 Loud snoring
Snoring with sleep apnea is usually regular and loud with regular snorts and gasps for air. These snoring episodes typically occur nightly.
In contrast to sleep apnea, normal snoring typically doesn’t awaken you, though the sounds of your snoring may keep others awake. Normal snoring may occur irregularly or during periods when you have a cold or congestion.
#2 Pauses in breathing
When you have sleep apnea, your snoring is often interrupted by frequent gasps for air, short pauses in breathing, and periods of breathlessness. You may not be aware that this is occurring until your roommate or partner tells you. Although some people with sleep apnea do awaken at night with shortness of breath.
The pauses in your breathing can stop oxygen flow to your brain. The loud gasp that often follows an episode is an involuntary reflex of your brain trying to disturb your sleep and awaken you so you breathe again.
#3 Restless sleep
With so much going on while you sleep, you’re likely to experience restlessness while you’re sleeping. You may kick, jerk, or thrash while you sleep and awaken to a bed of disheveled sheets.
People with sleep apnea can also need to urinate several times a night. When people with obstructive sleep apnea try to breathe despite having a closed airway, their bodies respond by producing atrial natriuretic peptide. This hormone acts on the kidney to increase sodium and water excretion, producing the urge to urinate. The more apnea episodes a person has, the more likely they’ll have to urinate at night.
#4 Daytime sleepiness
Persistent daytime fatigue and sleepiness often result from sleep apnea. These symptoms occur because people with sleep apnea don’t get a good night’s sleep.
Minor sleep apnea is defined as having 5-15 episodes of apnea (cessation of breathing) per hour. Having 15-30 hourly episodes defines a moderate condition, while apnea that occurs 30 or more times every hour is considered severe.
In contrast, a person who doesn’t have the condition may have up to five periods of apnea during the entire night.
Experiencing so many sleep interruptions, even with mild sleep apnea, can leave you feeling tired when you awaken, no matter how much sleep you’ve had. Because of this sleep deprivation, you’re also likely to experience irritability, mood changes, depression, and difficulty concentrating.
#5 Feeling bad when you awaken
People with sleep apnea commonly awaken with a dry throat and mouth or a severely sore throat. This occurs because they spend so much time with their mouths open during the night.
Any condition that interrupts your sleep pattern or prevents you from achieving quality sleep can cause morning headaches. Half of all migraine headaches occur from 4am-9am, and up to 50% of people who experience migraines also have problems sleeping.
If you have sleep apnea, you may experience morning headaches as a result of your interrupted sleep, though these episodes typically last less than 30 minutes. The good news is that you can expect to experience an improvement in morning headaches when you treat your sleep apnea.
Find out if your symptoms are related to sleep apnea or another serious condition. Schedule an appointment online or call one of our offices in Orlando or Kissimmee, Florida, for a consultation.