Do you or someone you know snore really loud? So many people do, it’s easy to think that snoring is just part of the sleeping process, but the truth is, it’s not. It’s just one of many indicators of a serious problem known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea describes a situation in which a person does not breathe continuously through the night when they are sleeping. In fact, they will stop breathing several times a night, which leads to waking up frequently during the middle of the night, a general poor quality of sleep, and as you may have guessed, snoring.
However, the ramifications of sleep apnea don’t stop there. Sleep apnea is a serious problem that really deserves more attention. This is because if left untreated for a long period of time, sleep apnea can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and hypertension (high blood pressure). These in turn can lead to heart attack or stroke. As such, it’s important to catch sleep apnea early, to reduce the chance of damage done to the body and to improve treatment options. If you are wondering if you suffer from sleep apnea, look for these signs.
As mentioned earlier, snoring is not harmless. It is true that people are more likely to snore as they age due to a relaxation of the throat muscles. That said, long-term hard and loud snoring is usually an indication that something is wrong; specifically, air cannot move freely through the respiratory pathways of the nose and throat. This could be due to a blockage caused by irregular growth, or a collapsed airway. Either way, the sound that we associate with snoring is caused by the vibration of the tissue in the airways as the air fights its way past.
However, the danger comes not from the noise, but from the silence. In the gaps between snores, people with sleep apnea are not breathing. A lack of oxygen, of course, disturbs the body’s sleep cycle and damages it. For those who sleep with partners who snore, loud snoring followed by silence, and then signs of struggling to breathe, such as gasping, are sure signs of a blockage of some kind; the sleeper likely won’t notice this during the night, but there are certain symptoms they will suffer during the day that may alert them to the presence of sleep apnea.
6. Daytime Exhaustion
Every once in a while, we’re all tired during the day. Usually you can chalk it up to a reasonable cause: a hangover, staying up late cramming or working, etc. However, if you can rule out all of these things and you’re getting to bed at a decent hour, yet still waking up tired, then sleep apnea may be the cause. This is because when you stop breathing, your body wakes up, even if you don’t notice it, and so many constant interruptions to your sleep throughout the night mean that you simply get less rest. Exhaustion by itself is not conclusive, though.
As mentioned earlier, there are other ways a to explain away exhaustion, which means that in order to diagnose sleep apnea, a doctor will likely ask questions to rule out other causes, and check for other symptoms that are directly related to sleep apnea. If a regular bedtime routine that helps you wind down and get ready for sleep at a reasonable hour doesn’t leave you feeling refreshed the next morning, and there are other symptoms such as harsh snoring at play, then you’ll definitely need to discuss sleep apnea and potential treatment options with your doctor.