One of the most important things to understand about sleep apnea is that most people with the condition don’t know they have it. It happens while they’re asleep, and neither they nor their doctor make the connection. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is untreated sleep apnea, and untreated sleep apnea is dangerous.
That’s why you have to be on the lookout for the signs of sleep apnea, and take action if they indicate that you might have the condition. Here are some of the more common warning signs of sleep apnea that you should be on the lookout for.
SnoringSnoring is a very common warning sign of sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when your airway narrows during sleep. This constricts the flow of air, which creates a turbulent airflow that vibrates the nose or throat, causing the sound of snoring.
It only takes a little more constriction to turn snoring into an apneic event. Research has shown that the louder your snoring, the more likely you are to have sleep apnea.
When your breathing stops because of an apneic event, you are forced to wake up slightly. This keeps you from reaching the deeper, more restorative levels of sleep. When you’re not reaching or staying in those deep levels of sleep, you’re not getting enough rest at night. As a result, you’re more likely to experience daytime sleepiness.
Tendency to Fall Asleep When Inactive
It’s sometimes hard to gauge your own sleepiness, but perhaps you can tell that you have a tendency to fall asleep at several points during the day when you have a moment of inactivity. If you tend to fall asleep when you sit down with more than a few minutes to yourself you likely have sleep apnea.
People also report being likely to fall asleep at work, while watching TV, or sometimes even while you’re driving!
Ideally, you should wake up well-rested in the morning. But many people with sleep apnea don’t feel rested at all. Instead, many of them may wake up with a headache from the repeated awakenings through the previous night.Sleep apnea headaches typically occur in the morning and resolve by themselves within a few hours. Not everyone with sleep apnea will experience these headaches–they affect between a fifth and a sixth of all sleep apnea sufferers.
Irritability and Moodiness
Sleep is essential to regulating our moods. If you’re not getting quality sleep, your moods can become erratic. People with sleep apnea often experience depression, but they can also experience giddiness. Their moods may be all over the place.
Irritability is common in sleep apnea sufferers because a lack of sleep can diminish our empathy. This makes us more likely to respond harshly to people around us.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a medical condition, so it’s not something you’re likely to note on your own, but your doctor will tell you if you have it.
Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure. When your brain senses an oxygen shortage, it tells your heart to beat faster and harder. Over time, this causes the the heart to push harder all the time, which is high blood pressure. Sleep apnea is especially associated with high blood pressure that doesn’t respond to medications. Left untreated, high blood pressure contributes to more serious heart problems.
Weight Gain or Inability to Lose Weight
One of the vital systems that your body regulates at night is your metabolism. It tells your body how much energy it needs, how much of that energy you should store as fat and how much of the fat reserves you should burn.
Sleep apnea disrupts these systems, making your body more likely to store fat. You are more likely to be hungry, and less able to resist the temptation of delicious food. The combination of these factors can make you likely to gain weight, and can make it very hard to lose weight, despite your best efforts.
Think You Might Have Sleep Apnea?
If you have noticed one or more of these warning signs, you might have sleep apnea. It’s worth it to get tested, because until you get tested, you can’t get treated, and if you don’t get treated, you can face serious health consequences.