More 18 million American adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation, suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. This potentially serious disorder can be detrimental to health, as it can stop airflow and decrease oxygen levels in your blood. Your brain, for the most part, responds to this by disturbing your sleep, along with a choking or gasping sound.
When you have an untreated sleep apnea, the way you breathe when sleeping is interrupted, or may become very shallow. Breathing pauses can occur hundreds of times at night, with each pauses lasting about 10 to 20 seconds. Its major repercussion is that you’ll have more light sleep and less deep or restorative sleep.
Find Out if You Have Sleep Apnea
Health care professionals, such as TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of Northern Indiana, note that it is usually difficult to know if you have sleep apnea by yourself, as the common signs and symptoms occur when you’re sleeping. It is better ask a bed partner to observe your habits, or record yourself when you’re dozing off. If pauses follow your snores, with gasping or choking sounds, you may have sleep apnea.
Other warning signs and symptoms include:
- Sleepiness and fatigue during daytime
- Sleep interruptions feeling short of breath
- Forgetfulness and with concentration problems
- Nighttime awakenings or insomnia
- Restless or disturbed sleep
Know the Risk Factors
While everyone can have sleep apnea, certain factors can increase your risk of the disorder. It is common for those with excess weight, as fat deposits in the upper airway may obstruct your breathing. A thicker neck, or a neck circumference that is 17 inches for men and 15 inches for women can also increase your risk.
Other risk factors include:
- Narrowed airway/throat
- Use of alcohol and sedatives
- Being older/male
- Nasal congestion
If you notice warning signs, it best to see your doctor immediately. An official diagnosis of the sleep disorder may require consulting a sleep specialist or taking a home-based sleep test. You have to keep in mind, however, that not all who snores have sleep apnea, and not those you have sleep apnea snore. To help decipher your symptoms, you may record yourself sleeping or keep a diary, recording your nighttime awakening and asking a partner to take note of your snoring.