Tuesday, 31 October 2017

​7 Signs You Actually Stop Breathing When You’re Sleeping (SLEEP APNEA)

It’s more common than you think—and it can lead to some serious consequences Long-term, sleep apnea has been linked with an irregular heartbeat, hypertension, and even stroke and heart attack.

Early treatment can help reduce your risks. But first, you need to be aware that something might be up.

Here, 7 signs that you might have sleep apnea: 

  • You’re Tired All the Time

Exhaustion is one of the biggest symptoms of sleep apnea. When you stop breathing and your brain sends out its distress call, you’re actually waking up–even if you don’t realize it.

“Your brain has to be awake for a full 30 seconds in order to recognize that it’s actually awake,” says Michael Breus, M.D., a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and SleepScore Labs advisory board member.

​7 Signs You Actually Stop Breathing When You’re Sleeping (SLEEP APNEA)

But waking up—even if it’s just for a few seconds—can disrupt your sleep cycles, leaving you more exhausted the next morning.

Now, exhaustion is pretty nonspecific, and it’s common in lots of other conditions. That’s why doctors look for a constellation of other symptoms (see below), which can help signal that your exhaustion may be apnea-related.

  • Your Snoring Is Earth-Shattering

Next to daytime sleepiness, loud snoring is the second major marker of sleep apnea. Not everyone who has sleep apnea snores (and not everyone who snores has sleep apnea), notes Dr. Breus, but it’s an extremely common symptom.

Breathing into a partially collapsed airway causes a vibration, which makes the snoring sound, says Dr. Rapoport.

This can point to a blockage that predisposes you to sleep apnea. But it’s actually the pausing between snores that can be more concerning: This is the part where you’re not breathing.

“If there’s no air moving, there can’t be any noise,” says Dr. Rapoport.

Along with severe snoring, your bed partner may notice a “gasping, snorting, or struggling” as you return to breathing, he says. This can be pretty dramatic and alarming for someone you sleep next to, but you probably won't notice, he adds.

  • You Fall Asleep Anytime, Anywhere

If you can’t help but doze off in a dark movie theater or you consistently pass out on the couch watching TV, this could point to some extreme apnea-related exhaustion.

“Since your sleep is being severely disturbed, most of these people fall asleep at the drop of a hat,” says Dr. Rapoport. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s normal for me to fall asleep whenever I go to a movie or go to a show.’ But it’s not normal to fall asleep when you don’t want to.”

And this doesn’t just bring on the wrath of your fellow moviegoers: It can cause some deadly consequences, too. This instant ability to fall asleep is one of the major risks with driving, Dr. Rapoport adds.

  • You’re Moody and Your Memory Is Shot

Mood changes and difficulty with memory and concentration stem from the sleep deprivation that comes along with sleep apnea, explains Dr. Breus.

When you’re waking up more than five to 15 times an hour, your body isn’t settling into the deep, restorative stages of sleep it needs to function properly.

This can negatively impact how well you remember small details, like where you parked your car, and also has an effect on how well you can focus on tasks. And, as you can imagine, a night of terrible sleep can leave you feeling pretty crabby or low, especially when it’s every night.

  • Your Morning Begins With a Pounding Headache

“When you don’t breathe at night, you’re deprived of oxygen,” says Dr. Breus. “When you’re deprived of oxygen, your brain doesn’t like it, so you’ll have a pretty decent headache early in the morning.”

This isn’t a specific type of headache, but it usually goes away within an hour or two of awakening, as your brain gets the oxygen it needs after a night of struggling.

  • You Wake Up To Pee At Night

While waking up to pee can just be a side effect of aging—due to an enlarged prostate— it can also point to sleep apnea.

“It’s called nocturia,” says Dr. Breus. “What seems to be going on is that once people are awake due to the sleep apnea, then they realize they have to pee.”

Since you’re in a lighter stage of sleep, you’ll wake up easier when nature’s calling (rather than waiting till morning like you would normally).

  • Your Wake Up With Dry Mouth or a Scratchy Throat

When you’re snoring with your mouth wide open, it’s not just your bed partner who can point it out—how your mouth feels in the morning can give you a clue, too.

"When you have that much air flow through the mouth, you don't have as much saliva production, so your mouth has a tendency to get dried out," explains Dr. Breus. This leaves you with dry mouth and throat first thing.

What to Do If You Think You Have Sleep Apnea

If any of this sounds familiar, make an appointment with your doctor. The next step is a sleep study, either at home or in a lab, to count the number of times you stop breathing in your sleep (it’s difficult to identify blockages while you’re awake in the office).

If it’s more than five times an hour, your doctor will discuss treatment options depending on severity and what might be causing it. The most common treatment is what’s called a CPAP machine—you wear a mask, which helps push air through the blockage to open it up. Oral appliances, which bring your jaw forward to open up your airway, may also be an option.

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