Written by Carol Smith, PA-C
There are many different signs of sleep apnea. We have listed the 10 signs that see very frequently in our patients.
- Snoring. Loud snoring is common but not consistent across the board with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients. Lack of snoring does not negate risk of sleep apnea.
- Gasping or choking arousals from sleep. These symptoms accompanied by snoring would highly indicate sleep apnea. Choking or gasping during sleep are caused by the attempt to breath in against an obstructed collapsed airway.
- Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sleep apnea causes a high level of anxiety. This occurs because breathing stops due to obstruction of the airway resulting in decreased oxygen to the entire body in particular the brain. The sound of one's own snoring and gasping can wake a person up partially or totally. Sleep can be disturbed by a bed partner who is unable to sleep.
- Disturbed sleep. Sleep apnea is most severe in deep sleep as muscles that support our airway are most relaxed allowing for airway collapse. The oxygen deprived brain limits time or avoids deep sleep . This results in little or no quality , restorative sleep.
- Frequently waking up with a sore throat. Our brain in an attempt to avoid obstructive episodes causes us to be mouth breathers. Mouth breathing bypasses the process of warming and moisturizing air properties of the turbinates' and nasal passages.
- Weight gain. Sleep deprivation and it's accompanying tiredness can lead to impulsive, emotional eating. Ghrelin , a hormone that induces hunger, increases with sleep deprivation. Leptin, a hormone that signals fullness, decreases with lack of sleep. Insulin has a decreased effect when we're sleep deprived so increased production occurs. Increased insulin levels cause food cravings especially for carbohydrates.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness. Feeling tired is an obvious sign of sleep apnea/sleep deprivation but is reported by only about 20 % of people with OSA.
- Forgetfulness. OSA interferes with a persons ability to focus resulting in forgetfulness and being scatterbrained. Children with OSA can be misdiagnosed as having learning disabilities or ADD/ ADHD.
- Mood swings. Depression, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, impatience result from not only lack of oxygen while we sleep but also the ensuing frustration of lack of focus that results in poor job/school /social performance, increased mistakes, poor judgment, irritability and impatience.
- Lack of interest in sex. Sleep deprivation can result in a decrease in testosterone production. Testosterone deficiency can result in erectile dysfunction in men and decreased sexual desire and sensation in women.
There are other signs, however these 10 are ones that we tend to see in our patients. Sometimes these signs are dismissed as being related to another cause.
If you are reading along and feel like we have described you, take action to get help now! Click here to take our sleep quiz, or call (800) 226-6084 and schedule an appointment today.