Sleep Apnea is a health disorder characterized by several pauses in breathing during the sleep phase. The breath may become shallow, or you might actually hold your breath for a few seconds before starting to breathe within normal parameters again. Sleep apnea can be an occasional problem, but over time it might become a permanent problem. Generally, the pausing in breath will last a few seconds, but the issue can become more complex and then pauses can last even 10+ seconds in length.
Those who struggle with sleep apnea do not hold their breath intentionally. In fact, the airways become blocked because of the muscles and excessive soft tissue located in the throat. This is when the airways collapse and you cannot breathe as you usually do. Please find below some of the most common signs and warning symptoms of sleep apnea.
If you wake up several times during the night because of a disruptive and loud snoring, this might be the first sign of sleep apnea. Loud snoring on its own might not be necessarily a sign of sleep apnea, but it should be a warning signal that something might be wrong. If your bed partner also tells you often that your snoring is extremely loud, or that you make pauses in breath during sleep, you should further investigate the problem and talk to your doctor about it.
When you “struggle” all night long to breathe normally, you certainly cannot get good quality sleep. You wake up extremely tired in the morning, feeling low and even depressive. This happens because you could not get enough quality rest during the night, exactly because your sleep is disrupted too often by breathing related problems. Experts in the field suggest there is even a strong connection between depression and sleep apnea. Not being able to sleep well night after night will ultimately lead to more severe mood problems, which may even end up in depression.
After the blockage in the airways is over, you might find yourself that you are gasping for more air during the night. You can breathe normally again, but your lungs need that extra shot of oxygen to feel well. If such gasping happens too often, this could be another sign of sleep apnea.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea are not able to get quality REM sleep, or deep sleep. This happens because they are woken up too often by their own snoring, blockages in the airways or gasping for more oxygen. REM sleep is extremely important, because this is the sleep phase that allows you to wake up and feel refreshed. In case you wake up in the morning feeling low, and throughout the day you find yourself you cannot remember things so well…this might happen because you are not experiencing quality REM sleep.
Frequent morning headaches might be an indicator that you did not sleep well last night. If you experience such headaches on a frequent basis, you should further investigate the issue in this direction and see if you maybe struggling with sleep apnea. Once your doctor will set you up with the correct type of CPAP machine, you will immediately feel the difference. There will be no more pauses in breathing during the night, and you will be able to experience a quality and restful night of sleep. This is also when you will start waking up more and more refreshed and the headaches will become a matter of the past. The lungs will receive enough quality oxygen, and your entire system will be capable of functioning well- both physically and on a mental level.
There are quite a few risk factors which you should also keep in mind. Excess body weight is one of the first risk factors for developing sleep apnea. If your body mass index exceeds 25 or if you are obese with a BMI of 30+, you might easily get exposed to developing sleep apnea complications. Also, a large neck size which exceeds 17 inches might become a risk factor for sleep apnea. This happens because people with larger necks have greater amounts of soft tissue, which will block the airways during sleep.
Sleep apnea can easily occur at any age. However, according to studies in the field middle aged persons are mostly exposed to developing the disorder. In case the risk factors also add up, meaning that you are overweight and middle aged as well…your risk is even more increased for developing sleep apnea. Family history also plays a huge role as risk factors, because it is typically hereditary. If one of your family members struggles with Sleep Apnea, you are also at greater risk of developing the condition.