We’ve all had days where we don’t feel our best, often due to a rough night’s sleep. But if you find yourself tired even after a full night of sleep more often than not, it might be a sign of something more serious.
Sleep apnea affects 22 million Americans, with an estimated 80% of cases going undiagnosed.
What is sleep apnea?
Defined as a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, sleep apnea can leave you feeling exhausted during the day. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of apnea, is caused by the muscles in your throat collapsing and causing a partial or full blockage of air flow. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when your brain doesn’t signal your body to keep breathing while you sleep. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both.
With apnea, your sleep can be interrupted as many as hundreds of times per night due to lack of airflow. If you’re repeatedly waking up, you never fall into the deeper and more restorative stages of your sleep cycle.
Signs of sleep apnea
Many people with apnea are unaware they wake multiple times during the night. All they know is they feel tired the next day. Here are some other signs you may be suffering from sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring
- Your bed partner reporting that you stop breathing during sleep
- Waking during the night, gasping or struggling for breath
- Waking in the morning with a dry mouth or throat
- Waking in the morning with a headache
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Falling asleep while driving
The risk for sleep apnea increases with age and with being overweight or obese. Although apnea affects both genders, men are at higher risk than women. Diagnosis requires a sleep study, either in your home or at a sleep lab. The most common treatment involves use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious consequences such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression.
If you think you might be suffering from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor.