Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common condition that affects approximately 18 million Americans, interfering with their ability to breathe properly while sleeping. Apnea is a relatively common condition, yet is still considerably misunderstood by the medical community and those who suffer from it.
Sleep apnea comes with a host of symptoms; some more well-known than others. You may already know that apnea is characterized by episodes of pauses in breathing, which can last up to 30 seconds at a time and hundreds of times per night…but did you know these 5 symptoms are also signs of sleep apnea?
Inability to Focus
Since individuals with sleep apnea never get a full night of sleep, their ability to focus on tasks and think clearly is adversely affected. This symptom is accredited to the classic disruptive cycle that sleep apnea sufferers are plagued by. Our bodies need quality sleep to clear away particles in the brain’s pathways like adenosine, a neurotransmitter. When an individual doesn’t get enough sleep, those pathways remain, resulting in a lack of sleep night after night. Subsequently, many sleep apnea sufferers experience a hazy feeling and poor concentration.
The nasal passage can be blocked as a result of sleep apnea, which leads to mouth breathing. Although everyone can experience dry mouth from time to time, sufferers of sleep apnea might experience it more frequently. This can be a cyclical problem because not only can sleep apnea lead to mouth breathing and dry mouth, but mouth breathing can contribute to snoring, which can cause a collapse in the airway (one of the telltale occurrences of sleep apnea).
When the airway collapses during sleep apnea, it can contribute to acid reflux, or heartburn. This is caused by a negative pressure that develops during apnea episodes, drawing the stomach’s contents into the esophagus. Many sufferers of sleep apnea have episodes of choking or coughing at night thanks to heartburn.
High Blood Pressure
Sleep apnea and high blood pressure often go hand-in-hand. Research has shown that sleep apnea can increase the risk for high blood pressure. Nearly 30 – 50 percent of individuals with sleep apnea have high blood pressure.
Also called bruxism, teeth grinding is another potential sign of sleep apnea. Teeth grinding can occur during sleep as an attempt to subconsciously tighten the muscles of the airway and keep the lower jaw from moving. This keeps the tongue from falling into the airway. As a result, this process can help to prevent sleep apnea related awakenings. Although it can help to prevent some apnea episodes, it can damage tooth enamel, cause headaches, and can lead to other health problems.
Sleep apnea is a severe health issue that should be treated properly. If you suspect that you or a loved one have symptoms of sleep apnea but aren’t currently diagnosed, please see a medical professional. Once diagnosed, you will likely be instructed to get a CPAP machine. You will also need a CPAP mask that fits correctly. Once you begin treatment, you will get back to the quality sleep that you’ve been missing. Get started on the path to feeling better today!