Sleep apnea is a condition that causes lapses in regular breathing at night, leaving you feeling drained and tired even after seemingly getting a proper night of rest. Sleep apnea affects roughly 30% of the U.S. population, but often goes undiagnosed and untreated because the symptoms are so common. Today we will walk through some of the signs of sleep apnea, your risk factors for developing it, and what to do if you think you may have it.
What are the signs of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is often difficult to identify because it shares symptoms with many other health conditions. Symptoms will vary person to person, but generally speaking, sleep apnea sufferers experience any or all of the following: a persistent feeling of tiredness despite regularly getting 7-9 hours of sleep, mood swings and irritability, gasping or choking while asleep or loudly snoring, dry mouth, morning, nocturia (excessive urination at night), weight
gain, morning headaches, trouble focusing, being especially reliant on caffeine, falling asleep at odd times of day, and in some cases shortness of breath or chest pain.
Are there different types of sleep apnea?
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common, affecting up to 30% of the U.S. population. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the airway being blocked or restricted during sleep. Central sleep apnea is the result of miscommunication between the airway and the brain, resulting in abnormal lapses between breaths. Central sleep apnea is far less common than obstructive, affecting only about 1% of the population. Mixed sleep apnea involves symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
What affects your chances of developing sleep apnea?
Anyone can develop sleep apnea, even if they are doing everything “right”
health-wise, but there are a lot of demographic and lifestyle factors that can
raise or lower your risk:
1) Age. The risk of developing sleep apnea increases with age and levels
off between age 60-70.
2) Alcohol. Drinking increases your risk of sleep apnea, as do several
types of narcotics and some prescription medications.
3) BMI. Research has found an association between higher BMI and higher risk of sleep apnea.
4) Congestion. Nasal congestion, especially if chronic, can increase your sleep apnea risk
5) Facial structure. People with a smaller or shorter bottom jaw and/or
larger tongues are more likely to have sleep apnea.
6) Hormones. Certain hormonal abnormalities can increase your risk of developing sleep apnea.
7) Sex. Men (and people assigned male at birth) are more likely to have sleep apnea.
This is likely because men have lower progesterone levels than women, and progesterone helps to support airway stability.
8) Sleeping position. Sleeping flat on your back at night constricts your lungs slightly, making it more difficult to breathe. Sleeping on your side with your knees bent is the easiest position to breathe from.
9) Smoking. No surprises here - several studies have found a link between smoking cigarettes and developing sleep apnea.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed and treated?
If you’re suffering from poor sleep quality and can’t figure out why, you can schedule a visit at our office to have your hormone levels tested to rule out any hormonal or other issues. If there is a hormonal imbalance causing sleep trouble, this can usually be corrected with supplements to help you establish a healthier sleep pattern. If you are otherwise healthy and natural supplements don’t seem to help, it may be time to schedule a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea.