Do you find yourself yawning all day or waking up feeling just as tired as when you laid down? You’re not alone. Americans today are not getting enough sleep. While you may simply find there are not enough hours in the day, there may be a deeper reason for the never-ending exhaustion. Sleep apnea has become an epidemic in our society, robbing millions of people of that much-needed rest. Health experts estimate that nearly 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, but up to 80% of those cases go undiagnosed. Take a moment to consider these common symptoms of sleep apnea and see if this may be the reason behind your chronic fatigue.
We hear the term sleep apnea often, but what does it actually mean? In a general sense, it refers to a sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts. There are two kinds of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common – where the muscles in your throat relax and block the airway. It can be caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking or excess weight but can also result from genetic predisposition.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not consistently send the right signals to the lungs and breathing muscles to continue breathing while asleep. Central sleep apnea occurs most frequently in people with heart problems or those who have had a stroke. Narcotic pain medication can also cause central sleep apnea. Some people have the misfortune of having complex sleep apnea. These people experience both central and obstructive sleep apnea due to a combination of lifestyle and genetic causes.
It is hard to diagnose yourself when you are asleep, so you may need to rely on a partner to notice some of the following, common symptoms or both types of sleep apnea.
- Loud Snoring: Snoring occurs naturally when your airways are partially obstructed, so occasional snorers need not worry. Only very loud snoring is cause for concern. If you frequently wake your partner up with your snoring, it is time to go to the doctor.
- Shortness of Breath upon Awakening: If you wake suddenly, gasping for air, this may be a sign that you were not breathing. Your body will wake you if it is not getting enough oxygen, but it can be so quick you don’t even remember waking up. If your partner notices you gasping for air or waking frequently, this could be a sign of sleep apnea.
- Dry Mouth or a Sore Throat: Consistently experiencing a very dry mouth or a sore throat when you wake up is also a sign of sleep apnea. It is caused by your mouth hanging open while you sleep since your body is struggling to inhale.
- Breathing Cessation During Sleep: This is the essence of sleep apnea, and something you will not notice in yourself. If your partner notices you frequently stop breathing while asleep, seek a doctor’s help immediately.
- Daytime Sleepiness: Sleep apnea robs you of a good night’s sleep by forcing your body awake frequently for oxygen. If you find yourself struggling to stay awake during the day, especially if you feel you are devoting enough time to sleep, you may have sleep apnea.
If you suffer from one or more of these symptoms, consult your doctor right away. Not everyone who suffers from sleep apnea experiences all of these symptoms and no one experiences these symptoms in the same way.
While it is highly recommended you consult your doctor, there are thousands of products on the market that claim to help you stop snoring. From pillows and nasal strips to mouthpieces and chinstraps, there is something out there for everyone. Your bedding may even be contributing to snoring by causing allergies! Look for products that specifically target obstructive sleep apnea. The most common products are mouth guards called mandibular advancement devices. These mouthpieces physically move your jaw forward to open your airway. This will solve problems for those who have naturally narrow airways. Another type of mouthpiece available is a tongue retaining device. These pieces hold your tongue in place at the front of your mouth so it does not relax back and block your throat. This is great for back sleepers who have snoring issues.
Take control of your life by getting your sleep back! You will feel better and your partner will surely thank you. Sleep apnea is a common issue that can be managed with the right sleep aids or even cured with the help of a doctor. Make an appointment today; you could be just a quick office visit from better sleep, which leads to better overall health.