Sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes repeated stopping and starting of breathing. It is regarded as a potentially dangerous disorder.
Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea
There are a number of types of sleep apnea, but the most common case is that of obstructive sleep apnea. The signs and symptoms for it are as follows:
- Loud snoring
- Headaches in the morning
- Excessive sleepiness in the daytime
- During sleep, episodes of breathing cessation are observed
- Eventual awakening is found to be accompanied by a sore throat or dry mouth
- Awakening abruptly, often accompanied by choking or gasping
- Experiencing difficulty in concentrating throughout the day
- Sweating during the nighttime
- Mood changes, such as irritability or depression, experienced throughout the day
- Blood pressure is found to be high
- Decrease in libido
Other signs that should ring the warning bell and make you seek a consultation with a doctor immediately include:
- Excessive and extreme drowsiness during the day that gets in the way of daily activities, such as working or watching television or even while driving, causing you to fall asleep during these activities
- Experiencing choking and gasping upon waking up
- Loud snoring such that it disturbs your own sleep and that of others
- While sleeping, experiencing intermittent pauses while breathing
Complications detected if sleep apnea is untreated or not detected
- Excessive fatigue in the daytime
Normal sound sleep needed for the body to restore its energy and heal itself is impossible for those suffering from sleep apnea because of the constant awakenings. Due to disturbed sleep, those suffering from sleep apnea experience extreme fatigue, irritability, and drowsiness. This reflects as lack of concentration in their daily activities. Often sufferers feel extremely sleepy while working, watching TV, or worse still, while driving. Fluctuations in mood are also experienced due to sleep apnea, along with depression and ill temper. Sleep apnea in children and adolescents can result in poor performance in school along with behavioral problems.
- Diabetes mellitus or type 2
Those suffering from sleep apnea are more prone to developing resistance against insulin and suffering from type 2 diabetes compared to non-sufferers.
- Heart ailments or high BP
Blood pressure tends to increase and subsequently puts a strain on the cardiovascular system due to drops in oxygen levels of the blood owing to sleep apnea. The risks of stroke, atrial fibrillation, and death due to low oxygen levels increase due to sleep apnea.
- Metabolic syndrome
This includes an increase in blood sugar, increased blood pressure, abnormal levels of cholesterol, and an increase in weight, especially around the waist. All of these are risk factors for heart diseases too.
- Problems with the liver
Sleep apnea patients are more prone to receive abnormal results when a liver function test is carried out, with signs of scarring as well. Such a condition is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Complications faced during surgery and with medications
With anesthesia and certain medications, sleep apnea patients suffer from different problems. Especially during major surgery when patients are sedated and lying on their back, they experience breathing problems. Therefore, they must inform doctors prior to surgery.
- Partners suffering sleep deprivation
Owing to loud snoring, partners of sleep apnea patients often have to sleep in other rooms and in general are sleep deprived.