Signs of Sleep Apnea

Something that may be obvious but is not often considered sufficiently is the importance of sleep.

Of course, sleep is essential for everyone.  It allows the body and the mind to recharge at the end of every day.  Insufficient sleep results in the body and brain not functioning properly.  Understanding the signs that you are not getting adequate sleep are, therefore, critical.

Almost 70 percent of Americans who sleep with a partner report that their partner snores while sleeping.  All too often, it is not just the noisy nuisance that is the issue.  Snoring can be an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea disorder (OSA).  Left untreated, it can impact your overall health.  Nearly 30 million U.S. adults have OSA which repeatedly causes breathing disruptions during sleep, which 75 percent of the time is undiagnosed.

With OSA, the airway repeatedly becomes partially or entirely blocked.  This limits the amount of air that reaches the lungs.  When this happens, it can manifest as snoring or a sort of choking noise.  This causes the brain and body to experience severe decreases in oxygen causing multiple arousals from sleep during the night.  This can happen several hundred times a night in the most extreme cases.  And, the person suffering this disruption may be totally unaware of experiencing these episodes while sleeping.

That is not to say that everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but snoring is a warning sign that should be taken seriously.  If you have been told you snore, do not ignore this information.  It is important to talk to a medical provider about screening for sleep apnea.

There are five indicators of sleep apnea of which you should be aware:

1. Snoring. Shoring between apneas is typically noticed by a bed partner.  Do not laugh it off or ignore it.

2. Choking or gasping during sleep. When snoring is pared with gasping or choking, or pauses in silent breathing, it is a reliable indicator of sleep apnea.

3. Fatigue or daytime sleepiness. Excessive sleepiness often occurs because sleep apnea interrupts normal sleep. This prevents your body from getting the high-quality sleep that it needs.

4. Obesity. A body mass index (BMI) of over 30 in an adult is considered obese.  The risk of sleep apnea increases with the amount of excess body weight one has.

5. High Blood Pressure. About 35 percent of adults with high blood pressure also have sleep apnea.

The test for sleep apnea is painless and is covered by Medicare Part B, as is equipment to alleviate the disorder if it is diagnosed.  If your sleep partner mentions your snoring, look further.  It can extend your life – and your quality of life.

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