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What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

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  • The first sign of sleep apnea is snoring. It is a hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when breathing is partially obstructed in some way during sleep
  • Whether you’re an adult experiencing apnea, or if your child has apnea, it’s important to be mindful of the symptoms so you or your child can be diagnosed faster and receive treatment

People with sleep apnea are prone to what’s considered the first sign of this disorder: snoring. It is a hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when breathing is partially obstructed in some way during sleep.

Snoring should not be taken lightly, as 75% of people who regularly snore have obstructive sleep apnea,1 which can lead to a higher risk of a heart attack. But snoring is only one of the many sleep apnea symptoms you should be aware of.

Common signs of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea symptoms that manifest in men and women include:2,3

  • Instances when you stop breathing while sleeping, often reported by another person
  • Waking up frequently to urinate
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Feeling irritable or depressed
  • Memory or learning problems
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Having mood swings or personality changes
  • Attention problems or failure to concentrate

Grinding and clenching of teeth are also common signs of sleep apnea. Plus, teeth grinding is an indicator of an upper airway obstruction that can cause the body to compensate by attempting to move your jaw to open the airway.

Symptoms specific to types of sleep apnea

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or central sleep apnea (CSA) also tend to develop certain symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of OSA include:4

  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Decreased libido

Meanwhile, the American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) notes the following symptoms of CSA:5

  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Shortness of breath that's relieved by sitting up
  • Chest pain at night

What happens if sleep apnea is left untreated?

There are sleep apnea side effects that can develop if this disorder isn’t addressed immediately. Breathing disruptions associated with sleep apnea won’t just impair your sleep and make you feel fatigued, but will also trigger poor health and chronic diseases via these mechanisms:

  • Reducing the amount of oxygen in the blood — This can impair function of internal organs and worsen existing health conditions.6
  • Slowing down or preventing critical detoxification of brain tissue — Sleep disruptions can cause the brain’s waste removal system, called the glympathic system,7 to operate poorly. The glympathic system only operates during deep sleep.8
  • Disturbing circadian rhythms — This may reduce melatonin production and disrupt other body chemicals.9
  • Preventing release of the growth hormone — This affects optimal growth and development.
  • Interfering with REM sleep — The disease can contribute to lack of focused attention during the day.10
  • Increase sympathetic tone11 This can cause problems with bed-wetting, night sweating, night terrors, restless sleep and anxiety.

If your child is experiencing sleep apnea it may lead to problems, such as:12

  • Hyperactivity
  • Negative effects to mental functioning
  • Poor school performance
  • Angry or hostile behavior

However, whether you’re an adult experiencing sleep apnea, or it’s your child who has apnea, it’s important to be mindful of the symptoms so you or your child can be diagnosed faster and receive treatment. Furthermore, family members and friends should also be watchful for indicators of sleep apnea, since some patients may not be aware that they are showing symptoms of this disease.

MORE ABOUT SLEEP APNEA

Sleep Apnea: An Introduction

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep Apnea Causes

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep Apnea Testing

Sleep Apnea Surgery

Sleep Apnea Prevention

Sleep Apnea FAQ



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