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Understanding the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

by / Friday, 02 January 2015 / Published in Sleep Apnea and CPAP

symptoms of sleep apneaSleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep condition that affects approximately 25% of the adult population in the United States. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is defined as follows:

“Sleep apnea is an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while the patient is asleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Of the three, obstructive sleep apnea, often called OSA for short, is the most common. Despite the difference in the root cause of each type, in all three, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer.”

Unfortunately, sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed since individuals who suffer from this disorder are asleep when the interruptions in breathing occur. This is cause for concern, as untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other moderate to severe health issues.

That said, there are common symptoms of sleep apnea to be aware of. These include:

  • Loud, chronic snoring
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Interruptions in breathing during sleep (this is something that your partner may notice)
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up frequently and abruptly
  • Waking up with dry mouth or a sore throat
  • Problems with memory or concentration
  • Mood swings, irritability or depression

While sleep apnea can affect anyone, risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Being male
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Being overweight
  • Having a large neck circumference
  • Having a genetically narrow airway
  • Smoking

If you’re concerned that you may have sleep apnea, there are four simple online tests courtesy of the American Sleep Apnea Association website that you can take right now to help you determine whether you suffer from this sleep disorder:

  • Berlin Sleep Questionnaire – Three categories of questions that will tell you if you’re at risk of having sleep apnea
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale – A series of eight questions developed by Dr. Murray Johns that measures daytime sleepiness
  • Snore Score – A series of six questions that will tell you if you’re at high risk of having sleep apnea
  • STOPBang Questionnaire – A series of eight questions that will tell you if you’re at low, high or very high risk of having sleep apnea

If these tests indicate that you’re at risk of having sleep apnea – or if you experience any of the sleep apnea symptoms listed above – it’s in your best interest to consult your physician. If you do end up receiving a sleep apnea diagnosis, the good news is that it’s highly treatable with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy and other methods of treatment.

photo credit: achichi via photopin cc