Could Your Insomnia Actually Be Sleep Apnea?
If your partner tells you that you snore loudly and you deal withexcessive daytime sleepiness, you may have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing stops and starts throughout sleep. In addition to loud snoring that disturbs others and daytime sleepiness, the most common symptoms and signs of sleep apnea include:
- Waking abruptly with shortness of breath
- Another person witnessing breathing pauses during your sleep
- Having a sore throat or dry mouth in the morning
- Trouble staying asleep
- Attention and focus problems
- Morning headaches
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This type of sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. This causes airways to narrow or close - which results in you being unable to adequately breathe in. This in-turn can lower the blood’s oxygen level. Your brain senses what is going on and awakens you so your airways can reopen. This happens quickly and most people do not remember it.
This pattern can repeat itself many times during each hour of sleep. The constant disruption keeps your body from going into the restful phases of sleep.
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. A few of the contributing factors include genetics, being a smoker, using alcohol, tranquilizers or sedatives, being overweight, having a thicker neck, and/or narrowed airways due to genetics or enlarged adenoids or tonsils, and nasal congestion.
Central Sleep Apnea
This type of sleep apnea is less common. It occurs when the brain does not send signals to the breathing muscles. Snoring and daytime sleepiness occurs, yet you may also awaken because you have shortness of breath. Most people who have central sleep apnea do remember these waking episodes.
The most common causes of this type of apnea are due to heart problems or stroke. Males are more likely to develop the condition, as are individuals over the age of 65 who have high risk factors.
Regardless of the form, many individuals suffering from sleep apnea claim they have memory problems, feelings of depression and mood swings, a diminished interest in sex, and a need to get up at night to use the bathroom.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, you should see your primary care doctor. You will most likely be referred to a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist will monitor your sleep either in a facility or via an at home testing monitor.
You may also be referred to one or more other specialists such as an ear, nose and throat doctor, or a neurologist.
Once an accurate diagnosis is made treatments and/or procedures can be prescribed to treat the sleep apnea. These may include therapies such as the use of a breathing machine or oxygen while sleeping.
More in-depth procedures are usually only necessary if previous therapies failed and the sleep apnea is severe. Examples include surgery to remove excessive tissue in the throat or jaw repositioning.
In the meantime, to feel more rested try sleeping on your side, avoid sedatives, and avoid alcohol in the hours before sleep.
Long term things you can do to deal with sleep apnea include losing excessive weight, exercising daily, and stopping smoking.
If you have any suspicion that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it's important to discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Sleep apnea is not something that should ever be ignored.
Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land's free insomnia sleep training. His online course uses CBT techniques to teach participants how to fall asleep without relying on sleeping pills. More than 5,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.