According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), up to 30 million people in the United States are living with sleep apnea. This prevalent sleep disorder causes temporary and multiple stoppages in breathing during sleep, which disturbs the sleep cycle and affects sleep quality.
This ailment usually goes undiagnosed because most of the signs of the condition — snoring, gasping for air and breathing cessation — happen during sleep. These breath stoppages stir the person up briefly, but not long enough to wake up fully. This means many people with sleep apnea may not even realize they suffered breathing difficulties while sleeping.
This article focuses on symptoms you and your sleeping partner should watch for throughout the night, including the signs that may manifest during the day, which may indicate sleep apnea.
Common symptoms of sleep apnea
If anyone or their loved ones notice the following symptoms while sleeping, they need to book an appointment with their dentist to get an evaluation for sleep apnea. The symptoms are the same for the types of sleep apnea, including the most common one known as obstructive sleep apnea, as well as central sleep apnea and mixed sleep apnea.
Habitual snoring which may be too noisy, although snoring does not necessarily mean the person has sleep apnea. Besides, not every sleep apnea patient snores.
Breath stoppage lasting for about 10 seconds or longer, accompanied by snorting and gasping. Sometimes, this event can happen 30 times or more within an hour.
Other warning signs that are common with sleep apnea include:
Waking up feeling stressed or fatigued even after sleeping for seven hours or more — which is the minimum length of sleep recommended by the AASM.
- Experiencing dry mouth early in the morning after waking up
- Morning headache
- Low sex drive or sexual dysfunction
- Problems with attention, concentration, or memory.
- Hyperactivity (especially in children with sleep apnea)
Coupled with the symptoms listed above, some signs that are more common with central sleep apnea include breath shortage, body weakness or numbness, voice changes and problems with swallowing.
Why is paying attention to the symptoms crucial?
It is easy to confuse the symptoms of sleep apnea with many other medical conditions. Some may ignore or attribute the signs to work stress, busy schedule or worries in the family. However, doctors usually advise people never to overlook or ignore symptoms or even delay treatment.
If sleep apnea is not the cause, the doctor may be able to perform physical evaluations to accurately diagnose other medical issues, if any, or help the patient handle the stressors or events in their life that may be causing those symptoms.
If a patient is suffering from sleep apnea, a dentist can diagnose the condition and recommend appropriate treatment before complications occur. The drowsiness and fatigue caused by sleep apnea could cause accidents that could harm the patient or other people. If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea symptoms, do not hesitate to book an appointment for a health evaluation.
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