Sleep apnea affects as many as 22 million Americans. It is concerning not only because it is so prevalent but also because it masquerades as chronic snoring. Many more people may have sleep apnea than are diagnosed because people aren’t even aware that they need medical care for their snoring problem. Here, we point out why it is essential to get help for sleep apnea and the signs that help is needed.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can decrease a person’s productivity and comprehension. The condition can make a person accident-prone and unable to concentrate. It can also interfere with healthy relationships due to chronic irritation, anxiety, or depression. From a health standpoint, untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and heart attack
- Worsening of ADHD
Spotting the Signs of Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea often present with one or more of the following:
- Chronic snoring. The reason sleep apnea may be missed is because it can look like nightly snoring. Listen for pauses in the sound followed by gasping or choking. This indicates that breathing has stopped and restarted.
- A sensation of smothering when sleeping. This sensation may be felt when one wakes suddenly from sleep after one stops breathing.
- Decreased sex drive. As a result of sleep deprivation and chemical changes that occur from repetitive apnea episodes, some people lose their sexual desire.
- Dry mouth or sore throat. This symptom is often experienced upon waking. It occurs because the person gasps for air and works harder to breathe after an apnea episode, which could happen many times a night.
- Mood changes. Studies show that sleep deprivation alters the chemical balance in the brain. These changes can affect how one manages their emotions daily.
- Morning headaches. Waking up with a headache that lasts the first few hours of the day is an indicator of low oxygen levels in the blood at night.
- Obviously, it is difficult to have daytime energy when you’re not sleeping well at night.