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What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?

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Are you finding it harder to stay awake during the daytime? Getting what you thought was a full night’s sleep but waking feeling as if you haven’t been refreshed at all? Does your partner complain about your snoring? If so, and you are additionally experiencing some other symptoms, you may well have a disorder that is increasingly common and potentially quite serious – sleep apnea. Put simply, this means that your breathing will be interrupted multiple times a night, disturbing your sleep with micro-interruptions that you may not even recall in the morning. This condition is treatable with advice from an ear, nose and throat doctor but does require careful management in order not to impact your health.

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can often take a while to be diagnosed, as those experiencing it may not realize the cause of the symptoms that they are living with. Diagnosis can be achieved with careful attention to the main indicators. The more of the following occurrences you are experiencing regularly, the more likely it is that you have sleep apnea – this will need to be confirmed by an ear, nose and throat specialist:

  • You wake multiple times in one night, perhaps thinking you need the bathroom
  • Your partner tells you that you snore loudly throughout the night
  • You may wake up short of breath or experiencing a choking sensation
  • You consistently have an extremely dry mouth or sore throat when you wake in the morning
  • You have trouble falling asleep at night, sometimes called insomnia
  • Waking up with a headache is normal for you
  • You experience extreme tiredness during the day
  • Your memory, recall and focus are not good
  • Perhaps you experience extreme mood swings with no obvious external cause, or often feel short-tempered due to tiredness
  • Your partner may have identified that you sometimes wake up struggling to breathe or even stop breathing while you sleep
  • There are other risk factors in your life: You might be medically overweight, smoke tobacco products or drink too much alcohol

Should I see a doctor?

If reading this is sounding familiar, it may be time to visit a doctor to talk over your symptoms and see what they think. It may be that they can give some specific advice on your situation which might help you rest more comfortably at night, or they could refer you to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. If this happens, the next stage is usually a polysomnogram. This is a test that assesses you while you sleep, looking at a number of different factors such as your eye movement, brain wave patterns, the oxygen levels in your blood and your breathing to give a more complete picture. Doctors will be able to see if you do stop breathing when you sleep and whether you are snoring and gasping as you sleep.

How is sleep apnea treated?

If you do get a diagnosis of sleep apnea, there are treatments which may be recommended by your doctor and home remedies that you may want to try yourself to manage your condition. If you have complicating factors, you may be asked to make a lifestyle change, such as giving up smoking or losing some weight. 

Medically speaking, sleep apnea is often treated by wearing a CPAP machine at night. This is a device with a mask that is fitted over the nose and mouth to pump oxygen into your body at night when you are asleep. It stops your airways narrowing to improve the quality of your breathing, which can also help you to feel less tired and reduce a lot of the complications that you may be experiencing, such as extreme tiredness and mood swings, while it can also ease problems linked to the condition which can cause further health complications, such as high blood pressure. 

Are there things I can do at home to treat sleep apnea?

Thankfully, there are also some things you can do at home to reduce the severity of your symptoms and give relief. These can sit alongside treatment with a CPAP if that has been recommended by your doctor. Some patients find that simply altering their sleeping position so that they sleep on their sides rather than their back, is very helpful. There is also a lot of evidence that things such as practicing yoga, using a humidifier in the bedroom or some types of oral appliance can also help – things your doctor can advise on to help you live a happier life with better quality of sleep.

Learn more about sleep apnea and how treatments can improve your health and give you a good night’s sleep with Mountain Ear, Nose and Throat Associates. Call now us at Sylva: 828-586-7474, Franklin: 828-524-5599, Murphy: 828-835-1014, New Asheville: 828-458-8100