adult man yawning while driving

One of the most troubling things about sleep apnea is that so many people with the condition remain undiagnosed. As we are working to improve awareness among people and their doctors, we want to make sure people understand the basic signs and symptoms to watch out for that can warn you that you may have sleep apnea.

Hopefully, this will help you see that you need a sleep test to diagnose your sleep apnea. When you’re ready, let an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center help.

Symptoms You May Experience

There are some sleep apnea symptoms you should watch out for. These include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Falling asleep during periods of inactivity
  • Feeling unrested despite long sleep
  • Feeling irritable, depressed, or moody
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Waking up frequently to urinate
  • Waking up short of breath
  • Weight gain/inability to lose weight
  • Nightmares
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Morning headaches

Not everyone experiences all these symptoms. The most common symptom is daytime sleepiness and other symptoms related to not getting enough rest, such as waking up tired. Dozing off while driving is a common symptom, but many people don’t realize how bad it is until they have an accident or near miss.

You should be concerned about these symptoms if you experience more than two of them, symptoms recur all or most nights, or you find these symptoms are interfering with your life. You might have a diminished quality of life, might have difficulty advancing at work, or might experience frightening moments like falling asleep at the wheel.

Common Signs Your Partner May Notice

Many of the most common signs of sleep apnea are those you can’t detect because you are asleep when they happen. These include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping or choking noise
  • Cessation of breathing
  • Restless sleep

These signs can be very disturbing to your sleep partner. They can cause your partner to lose sleep, and often, your partner may be worried about you. They may request that you see a doctor about your symptoms. This is only partly for their sake: they want you to be healthy, too.

Take these signs seriously if your partner reports them. Don’t deny that these are real signs. You might think you’re sleeping peacefully, but people often don’t know how bad their sleep is. If you must have more corroboration, check the list of symptoms above and the conditions below. If you find something on either list, consider that verification of what your partner reports.

It’s important to note that discussions about snoring or other sleep problems can quickly spiral out of control. Neither of you is at your best–since neither of you is getting good sleep–which can make you more prone to fighting. Don’t let something like snoring or sleep apnea ruin a relationship or set you down a path toward violence that everyone will regret.

Conditions Your Doctor May Diagnose

Other warning signs of sleep apnea may come in the form of medical diagnoses. Sleep apnea is associated with (and may even cause) a number of health conditions, including:

All these conditions are more common in people that have sleep apnea. If you are diagnosed with any of these medical conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor about sleep apnea.

You can’t count on your doctor to connect the dots when it comes to sleep apnea. Many doctors will see the above conditions as a primary diagnosis–this is what you have. Make sure to tell your doctor about any sleep apnea symptoms you have or signs your partner reports. If necessary, ask your doctor explicitly about sleep apnea and see if they can direct you on the next steps to get a sleep test in Omaha.

Screening Tests for Sleep Apnea

Still not sure whether you’d benefit from getting a sleep test in Omaha? If you want to be extra sure, you can take what are known as screening tests. These are just simple quizzes that gauge the likelihood that you have sleep apnea.

These are not sleep tests–they won’t tell you if you have sleep apnea. Doctors just use them to decide whether or not to give a person a sleep test.

According to the American College of Cardiology, there are three commonly accepted screening tests for sleep apnea:

  • STOP (BANG)
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale
  • Four-variable screening tool

The easiest of these to administer is the STOP test. The acronym stands for Snoring, Tiredness, Observed apneas, and high blood Pressure. If you have two of the four, you’re at high risk. For more specificity, you can add on the BANG questions: BMI over 35? Age over 50? Neck circumference over 16 inches? Gender male? If you have three out of the eight, you’re at high risk.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) is eight self-administered questions where you rate your likelihood of falling asleep in the situation from 0-3. A score of 10 more indicates high sleep apnea risk.

The Four Variable (4-V) tool is a lot more math than the others. The four variables are gender, BMI, blood pressure, and snoring. The 4-V tool is more specific to sleep apnea, but it’s less sensitive. If you want to get into the math of it, check it out here.

A Positive Diagnosis in Omaha

If you suspect sleep apnea, the next step is to get a proper diagnosis, which requires a sleep test, which can be taken in a sleep center or at home, depending on your condition.

If you need help getting in contact with a sleep doctor or if you are looking for information about sleep apnea treatment options, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.