Sleep apnea affects 10 to 30% of American adults and causes breathing disruptions during sleep, which can lead to serious health complications, including hypertension and stroke, if left untreated.
Recognizing the signs of sleep apnea is crucial, as early detection and treatment can improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of associated health problems. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, look for these signs:
1. Loud Snoring
Loud snoring is often associated with sleep apnea, particularly the most common form called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when the soft tissue in the throat and nasal cavity relax during sleep, causing a blockage in the airway. This restricted airflow leads to snoring as the body tries to force air through the obstruction, producing a loud, often disruptive sound.
While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, snoring is a common symptom of the condition. If you or your bed partner snores loudly and persistently, it is worth discussing the possibility of sleep apnea with a healthcare professional.
2. Gasping or Choking During Sleep
Gasping or choking episodes during sleep are common indicators of sleep apnea. These episodes occur when the brain detects a lack of oxygen due to interrupted breathing, causing you to awaken momentarily and take a deep breath. This can happen multiple times per hour and may be accompanied by a snorting or choking sound.
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider and arrange a sleep apnea test.
3. Daytime Sleepiness and Fatigue
Sleep apnea’s interruptions in breathing can lead to fragmented sleep, preventing you from achieving deep, restorative rest. This lack of quality sleep often results in excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, which can impact daily functioning, mood, and overall quality of life.
If you consistently feel tired during the day despite sleeping at least seven hours, sleep apnea could be a contributing factor.
4. Morning Headaches
Morning headaches are another common sign of sleep apnea. Repeated episodes of interrupted breathing can lead to lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the blood (hypoxemia), which may result in blood vessels dilating and causing headaches. These headaches typically occur upon waking and may last for several hours.
If you frequently experience morning headaches with no apparent cause, discuss your symptoms with a health professional to rule out sleep apnea. At Smile On Dental Salon & Sleep Apnea Center, we offer a convenient Apnea Risk Evaluation System (ARES) At-Home Sleep Apnea Test. For a full sleep profile, simply apply the forehead sensor device to your head before going to sleep.
5. High Blood Pressure
Sleep apnea can contribute to the development of high blood pressure, or hypertension, due to the strain it puts on the cardiovascular system. Persistent episodes of low oxygen levels and disrupted sleep can also cause the body to release the stress hormone, cortisol, which increases blood pressure.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, addressing sleep apnea as an underlying cause could alleviate your symptoms.