Sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects approximately 22 million people in the United States. It is categorized as the starting and stopping of breathing during sleep. Often, people with sleep apnea stop breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time, anywhere from five to 100 times an hour. Worse yet, because they are asleep, they don’t realize it's happening, making a bad situation potentially deadly.
For sleep apnea sufferers who are fortunate enough to have a partner or roommate, a diagnosis and treatment may be more easily obtained, because chances are that snoring and stalled breathing is keeping someone else awake. But for those who sleep on opposite shifts from their spouse, have a deep-sleeping spouse, or live or sleep alone, diagnosing sleep apnea can be downright impossible.
If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms during the day, you could be suffering from sleep apnea at night without even realizing it.
One of the No. 1 symptoms people who have sleep apnea report is feeling tired. That’s because, though they may not realize it, sleep apnea causes those affected to wake repeatedly throughout the night when they stop breathing. Though you may not recall waking, if you get up in the morning feeling like you haven’t slept and feel sluggish throughout the day, you could be suffering from a sleep disorder at night.
Irritability, Mood Swings and Depression
Are you frequently irritable, moody or depressed during the day with no explanation? Sleepless nights have been clinically proven to alter your mood. If you find yourself snapping at people over minor things or can’t seem to shake a bad mood for no apparent reason, you could have sleep apnea. Don’t feel bad - it’s a totally normal response. In fact, historically, sleep deprivation has been used as a form of interrogation torture. More reason to get evaluated for sleep apnea as soon as possible!
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than people who are not. That’s because obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by excess fatty tissue in the neck and throat. If your neck circumference is over 16 inches, you are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea.
High Blood Pressure
Do you have high blood pressure? It could be due to sleep apnea, because sleep apnea reduces the amount of oxygen your body produces. This causes your blood vessels to constrict, increasing your blood pressure. If you hold your breath, the same thing happens, and your body will return to normal shortly after - but if your blood vessels spend the entire night constricting in response to your stopped breathing, your blood pressure will become permanently elevated.
Frequent headaches are another sign of sleep apnea, because when you stop breathing, your blood vessels widen to get more oxygen to your brain, causing a vascular headache. If you wake frequently to headaches, you could be experiencing sleep apnea without realizing it.
If you are fortunate enough to have someone in your home who can check on your breathing throughout the night and has alerted you to any breathing shortages, do yourself a favor and speak to your doctor about sleep apnea. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms but aren’t aware of a sleep problem, you owe it to yourself to speak to your physician or Dr. Lederman about the possibility of a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea doesn’t have to mean an awkward CPAP machine. Many sleep apnea problems can be corrected with neuromuscular dentistry devices that position the mouth in the proper position for breathing.
If you’re concerned about sleep apnea, give Dr. Lederman a call at 516-882-1764.