While sleep apnea is fairly common, it can become a serious disorder with many complications. Repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep characterize sleep apnea. It can disrupt your night’s rest, increase your risk of developing other health problems, and even contribute to relationship difficulties with your spouse or partner.
Sufferers often struggle with the symptoms of sleep deprivation and low-quality sleep, such as trouble concentrating during work hours, feelings of depression, poor judgment, mood swings, and irritability.
Many people are not aware they have obstructive sleep apnea. Others might be aware of their symptoms but think they are natural or harmless – but they are not.
Common Indicators of Sleep Apnea
It can be difficult to recognize that you have a problem because you are asleep when the interrupted breathing occurs. However, several common indicators indicate you might have obstructive sleep apnea:
- Someone tells you that you snore and sometimes stop breathing while asleep
- Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
- Waking up abruptly, gasping, or short of breath
- Difficulties concentrating during the day
- Excessive napping during the day
- Easily irritable and sudden mood swings
- Decreased sex drive
If you suspect obstructive sleep apnea, your first step should be visiting your doctor for a physical exam and an evaluation. Your healthcare provider will likely recommend a sleep study and overnight monitoring. This sleep study is not a pleasant experience, but it will help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Once diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure device – a CPAP machine. The CPAP machine involves wearing a mask that provides pressurized air, which keeps your airways open during sleep. This treatment works best for most people, but it can be uncomfortable at first. It takes time to become accustomed to the machine’s noise, and some people have trouble tolerating wearing a mask.
Lifestyle changes can also improve your condition and help reduce your risk of suffering from sleep apnea. A healthy weight is a key factor in preventing and fixing sleep apnea. Apnea occurs when fat deposits in the upper respiratory tract and the throat push down and block the airway when you sleep. By losing weight, you can reduce this risk.
When apnea isn’t managed, this obstruction can cause decreased oxygen availability for vital tissues, leading to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.
Sleep is vital to our wellbeing, and a health disorder that affects sleep is serious. If you suspect you may have obstructive sleep apnea, make sure to speak to your physician as soon as possible.