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5 Warning Signs You May Have Sleep Apnea

Published February 4th, 2022 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Chris Riley

Sleep Apnea 101 | 5 Warning Signs | Symptoms | Complications

Do you snore loudly? Do you feel exhausted during the day, even after a full night's sleep?

You may be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can have negative consequences on your health if left untreated.

We will discuss five Warning Signs Of Sleep Apnea.

If you experience any of these symptoms, please see a doctor right away. 

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop and start breathing during sleep.

These pauses in your breathing can last anywhere between a few seconds up to one minute, and they occur when the muscles and soft tissue at the back of your throat collapse temporarily during sleep.

It can occur as many as 30 times or more in just a single hour.

There are three types of sleep apnea that you can suffer from. The first type is called obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form of the sleep disorder.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked during sleep.

The second type is central sleep apnea, which happens when your brain fails to send the correct signals to your lungs telling your lungs to breathe.

And lastly, there is a rare form of sleep apnea called complex or mixed sleep apnea, which is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apneas.

what are the warning signs of sleep apnea

What are 5 warning signs of sleep apnea?

There are several symptoms that you can look out for if you suspect that you or your loved one is suffering from this disorder.

While not all of these may apply to every person, they can still be helpful in diagnosing yourself or others around you with sleep apnea.

Let's take a closer look at five of the common signs below.

Loud snoring

One clue that you may have the disease is if someone has noticed that you snore loudly.

While not everyone who suffers from sleep apnea will snore, it can be a warning sign for those who do. It usually is very loud and can wake up your family, housemates, or bed partner.

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)

Another sign of sleep apnea is chronic fatigue or excessive daytime sleepiness.

If you feel tired often and find yourself falling asleep during the daytime without warning, then you may be suffering from this sleep apnea.

Headaches

A third sign that you should look are frequent headaches, particularly morning headaches.

If a headache typically occurs in the morning and does not go away after taking over-the-counter medications or with enough rest, then what you are experiencing could be a symptom of sleep apnea.

Waking up with a dry mouth or throat

Another warning sign that you may have sleep apnea is if you wake up in the morning with what feels like a cottonmouth and/or sore and dry throat.

If this happens more than once, then it could be an indication that your airway becomes blocked during sleep.

Irritability or mood swings

If you are suffering from sleep apnea, then what may come as a surprise are not only physical symptoms but also mental and emotional ones.

You may feel irritable or even depressed when you don't get enough sleep at night.

This is because when you are deprived of sleep, it can affect your mood and cognitive function.

What are more symptoms of sleep apnea?

In addition to the five warning signs that we just looked at, there are other common symptoms that you may experience with sleep apnea.

These include but are not limited to:

Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night

When you suffer from sleep apnea, you may find that you are not able to stay asleep for a long period of time.

This is because the pauses in your breathing can disrupt your sleep cycle and leave you feeling tired the next day.

Waking up with a choking sensation or gasping for air during sleep

This is known as a sleep apnea episode and it can be very frightening.

If you experience this, then it is important to seek medical help right away.

Trouble concentrating

If you have been struggling to focus or have had trouble remembering things, then it could be because of the lack of sleep that is caused by sleep apnea.

High blood pressure

Also called hypertension, this is a condition in which the blood pressure in your arteries is consistently high.

High blood pressure can be dangerous because it puts stress on your heart and other organs, and can lead to other health problems if left untreated.

Decreased sex drive

A decreased libido is another side effect that can occur from sleep apnea.

When you are not getting the proper amount of rest, it can affect your hormone levels and make you feel less interested in sex.

What are the risk factors for sleep apnea?

There are many risk factors that can increase your chances of developing this disease. Some of these include:

Being male and over 40 years old

Men who are over 40 have a higher risk of sleep apnea than women do.

This is because as you age, the muscles in your body become weaker and can lead to snoring or other breathing problems during sleep time.

Also, men tend to be heavier than women, which can also put extra stress on the airway.

Having a family history of sleep apnea

If you have a parent or sibling who suffers from sleep apnea, then you are more likely to develop it as well.

There is a genetic component to obstructive sleep apnea that makes some people more susceptible.

Smoking cigarettes

Cigarette smoking is not only bad for your lungs, but it can also increase the risk of sleep apnea. Cigarettes contain toxins that can damage the airway and make breathing difficult.

Being overweight or obese

If you are overweight you are more likely to develop sleep apnea because excess fat around the neck area can narrow the airway and lead to snoring.

Having a chronic health condition

Conditions such as congestive heart failure, stroke, and diabetes can increase your risk of sleep apnea.

Inflammation may occur in the airway which narrows it and makes breathing difficult. Asthma and allergies that cause congestion can also be factors.

Drinking alcohol

Alcohol consumption is associated with sleep apnea because it relaxes the muscles in your neck and throat which can lead to snoring or other breathing problems.

Medications

Some medications can increase your risk of sleep apnea.

These include tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and muscle relaxers.

These can lead to sleep apnea because they may relax the muscles in your upper airway causing a blockage.

What are the complications of sleep apnea?

There are many complications that can occur from sleep apnea.

Besides morning headaches and excessive daytime sleepiness and the complications it can cause due to mood swings, depression, and irritability, there are several other complications that can occur.

These include:

Cardiovascular problems

Cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

These conditions are all caused by a lack of oxygen in the body which causes your heart to work harder to pump enough blood throughout your body.

Memory problems/dementia

People with sleep apnea may also suffer from memory problems or dementia.

Sleep apnea causes a lack of oxygen in the brain which can lead to these issues.

Weight gain/metabolic syndrome

Sleep apnea can cause weight gain because when you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases hormones that make you want to eat more.

This leads to an increase in calories consumed and a decrease in physical activity due to fatigue. A healthy diet and decreasing the amount of food eaten along with regular exercise is the key to preventing weight gain.

Annoyed bed partner or housemates

Sleep apnea can cause snoring and other noises that may keep your bed partner awake. This can lead to resentment toward the person with sleep apnea, as well as arguments over what should be done about it.

Death

Sleep apnea is a serious condition and, in some cases, it can be fatal.

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, or even death.

If you are experiencing any of these warning signs or symptoms, please see your doctor as soon as possible.

There are many treatment options available for sleep apnea and early diagnosis is key to preventing the serious complications that can occur from this disease and for you to experience restorative sleep.

Summary

There are many signs and symptoms of sleep apnea that you should be aware of including snoring loudly, choking or gasping during sleep, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness, among others.

These symptoms can also cause many complications that may ruin your sleep quality and overall quality of life.

Treatment options for sleep apnea are available and early diagnosis is key to preventing the serious complications that can occur from this disease.

If you have any further questions please talk to your doctor, sleep specialist, or healthcare providers about which treatment for sleep apnea may be right for you so you can get a restful sleep.

References and Sources:

Johns Hopkins Medicine 

AARP 

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