Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that mainly affects adults but is not age-related. There are several types of the condition: obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by relaxation of the throat muscles during sleep, central is caused by faulty control of breathing by the brain, and complex is a combination of both these types. There are several important signs and symptoms of sleep apnea that shouldn’t be ignored as early intervention can help reduce the severity and distress and also promote overall health. All the types are potentially dangerous to health as well as life-threatening.
Sleep apnea is one of the most poorly diagnosed conditions in medical science. More than 20 million adults in the country may suffer from sleep apnea, but the condition remains unreported and, consequently, undiagnosed. Women tend to not report snoring, which is one of the symptoms of the condition. They also deny the loudness of their snoring but report other symptoms like fatigue and sleeplessness.
It can also affect infants, and it tends to increase with age. In children, it is related to large tonsils or adenoids, leading to obstruction of the airways.
Complications and treatment
Sleep apnea can also trigger other health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, depression, stroke, and premature death. Pediatric sleep apnea, if left untreated, can affect the child’s development, growth, cognitive development, and behavior. It is possible to control the severity and progression of sleep apnea through lifestyle changes like increasing exercise, losing weight, restricting alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking. Exploring therapies like positional therapy that promote sleeping on the side may also help alleviate the symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea
Typical signs and symptoms of the condition tend to be common for both obstructive and central sleep apnea:
- Excessively loud snoring
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Intermittent stoppage of breathing during sleep (usually reported by a partner)
- Breathlessness and gasping during sleep
- Morning headaches
- Increased daytime fatigue and drowsiness
- Lack of concentration and irritability
- Slow-movements in thinking and performing daily functions
- Falling asleep when driving, watching TV, or working
- Other people/partners report choking, gurgling sounds, and restless sleep
- High blood pressure
- Decreased libido
- Mood changes and frequent bouts of depression
- Night sweating
- Waking up abruptly with a feeling of confusion, sore throat, and a sensation of thickening and dryness of the tongue
- Feeling unrefreshed after sleep
- Nocturia (frequently waking up at night to use the bathroom)
- Memory loss
- No awareness of interrupted sleep after a bout of snoring
- In pediatric sleep apnea, or if children are affected by the condition, the signs could include mouth breathing during waking, poor attention span, behavioral issues, bed wetting, problems in school and with social relationships, nightmares, restless sleep, pauses in breathing, choking, and snoring