You wake suddenly in the night. Vaguely, you recall hearing a snorting sound or sharp snore. Then you quickly drift back into a restless sleep.
You may have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects people regardless of age, gender or size. It is often (but not always) accompanied by loud snoring and snorting. If you have it, your body fails to breathe several times a night for several seconds. Then you wake up for a brief period (you’ll probably not remember) and fall back to sleep again.
This pattern repeats throughout the night. In some patients it happens over 60 times an hour.
You can sleep for 8, 9 or more hours and wake up feeling groggy and tired. You are not alert during the day no matter how much you sleep.
Should You Care?
If you think that you might have sleep apnea then you need to see your doctor and arrange a visit to a sleep clinic. Do not fall for the temptation to put this off. It can have serious consequences.
A sleep study can measure how your body responds during sleep and will help the doctors diagnose your condition. You may have sleep apnea (you stop breathing during sleep) or possibly sleep hyponea (you breathing is restricted during sleep).
Your doctor will then discuss possible treatments.
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health consequences. The lack of oxygen and proper sleep are both devastating on your body. Some of the implications are:
- moodiness and irritability
- increased blood pressure
- heart disease
- memory loss
- impotence or sexual dysfunction
The fallout can be deadly. Automobile accidents are often caused by apnea related fatigue.
It can also affect your career and social life.
What To Do
The first thing to do is get a proper diagnosis. Your doctor may not want to recommend a sleep study. Do not settle for that. Push to get a study done at a sleep clinic.
You can also modify your lifestyle. People who are overweight often find that losing weight will reduce or eliminate sleep apnea, but this isn’t true in all cases. It’s still beneficial to lose weight though, so give it a try.
Reduction of alcohol and tobacco use can often help as well.
Setting up proper sleep routines (i.e. regular sleep and wake times, a settling down period before bed, etc.) will also help.
But while you are working on these you should also be following the treatment recommended by your sleep doctor. This could be using CPAP (a machine the pressurizes your airways to keep them open), surgery or dental devices (to hold the jaw and/or tongue in place to keep the airway open).
There are many different factors that cause or aggravate sleep apnea. There are different treatment options. But it is critical that you get a proper diagnosis and find the treatment that works best for you.
Then you can rest easy.