Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts as you sleep. Many people don’t realize they have it, because they only have one or two symptoms, and they’ve probably had them for a very long time, so they simply learned to live with them.
But sleep apnea can have far-reaching effects on your overall health, so it’s important to know the variety of symptoms and get help if you need it.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
There are so many symptoms of sleep apnea, but if you only have one or two, you may not realize that’s what you’re dealing with. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Loud and chronic snoring
- Choking or gasping while you’re sleeping
- Morning headaches
- Frequent awakening during the night
- Trouble falling asleep at night
- Daytime sleepiness regardless of how many hours you spent in bed
Effects of Sleep Apnea
If you don’t notice that your sleep is getting interrupted and you don’t feel sleepy during the day, you may not think you have sleep apnea. On the other hand, if you have had certain symptoms and your doctors can’t seem to find a reason for them, you should consider that sleep apnea might be the cause.
When your breathing stops and starts while you are sleeping, you are jolted out of your natural sleep rhythm. That means you spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep, restorative sleep. As a result, you may suffer from:
- Poor concentration
- Learning and memory problems
- High blood pressure
If you have any of these four conditions but haven’t been able to find the cause, talk to your doctor about sleep apnea, even if you don’t have the standard daytime sleepiness issue that most people with sleep apnea have.
Long term Effects of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems over time, including an increased risk of:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
There are also two new studies that found a link between cancer and regular deprivation of oxygen as caused by sleep apnea. Those studies found that people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing cancer. Another study, published in the August 10, 2011 edition of Journal of the American Medical Association showed that oxygen deprivation over time can lead to cognitive impairment, and that elderly women who suffer from sleep apnea are twice as likely to develop dementia that women without the condition.
Sleep apnea is a treatable condition, and there are many options besides surgery or CPAP machines. Tomorrow I will cover some ways you can help yourself if you suspect sleep apnea or have been diagnosed with the condition. I’ll also give you an overview of some ways your doctor may be able to help you if your condition is severe or if home remedies don’t help.
For now, though, think about whether you have any symptoms that might have a connection with lack of sleep or oxygen deprivation. If you haven’t been able to find any other cause for those symptoms, do some more reading on sleep apnea or see your doctor!