Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) include:
- Chocking/Gasping during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Awakening feeling not rested in the morning
- Morning headaches
- Irritability, depression, or anxiety
- Erectile dysfunction, low libido or sex drive
- Difficulty concentrating and retaining information
Snoring is not only disruptive to the snorer’s bed partner (and sometimes disruptive to the entire family!), but can also be an indication of a more serious medical problem called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Typically, someone with obstructive sleep apnea will snore heavily, then stop breathing for a period of time. The pause in breathing could last for as little as a few seconds, or even up to minutes at a time! The bed partner will observe that the person struggles to breathe but there is no snoring sound. These periods of lack of breathing are followed by sudden attempts to breathe often accompanied by a gasping or choking sound.
9 Reasons To Suspect It May Be More Than Just Snoring
Reason 1: Excessive daytime sleepiness
If you tend to “nod off” while sitting quietly at home, at work, on the phone or while driving, it could be a sign that you are not getting refreshing sleep at night. This can lead to mood disorders, stress on personal relationships, work-related accidents and even car accidents. A Canadian study reported that people with sleep apnea are twice as likely to be in a car crash. They reported that even people with fairly mild sleep apnea had an increased risk of serious crashes. Truckers associations are informing truck drivers of sleep apnea’s seriousness.
Sleepiness related to sleep apnea has also been linked to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Chernobyl disaster and Three Mile Island.
Reason 2: Snoring
Almost all people who have sleep apnea snore; but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. The only way to be sure you or your loved one’s snoring is not a more serious medical condition is to talk to your health professional about a sleep study.
Reason 3: Regular breathing stops while sleeping
The snorer’s bed partner may notice frequent times through the night when the snorer stops breathing. The number of times a patient stops breathing will determine the level of severity of Obstructive Sleep Apnea – mild, moderate or severe.
Stopping breathing for 10 seconds or more while sleeping:
- 4 or less times per hour is considered “normal”
- 5-15 times per hour is considered “mild” OSA
- 15-30 times per hour is considered “moderate” OSA
- 30+ is considered “severe” OSA
Reason 4: Gasping or choking while sleeping
When the throat collapses during sleep, the brain forces you to partially awaken to breathe. This can happen many times during an hour and keep you from getting the deep sleep you need.
Reason 5: Feeling unrefreshed in the morning
Because you are not getting the sleep you need, you may feel more tired in the morning after a night’s sleep than you did the night before. This can also cause problems with memory, concentration and personality changes.
Reason 6: Heartburn or a sour taste in the morning or at night
Many people with sleep apnea regurgitate stomach acid while sleeping. This is known as GERD and can cause problems with your esophagus and your teeth.
Reason 7: Headaches, sore throat or dry mouth in the morning
Almost half the people with sleep apnea have headaches due to a poor night’s sleep.
Reason 8: Sexual dysfunction
It’s true! Obstructive sleep apnea sufferers may experience a lack of sexual desire because of fatigue. In men, sleep apnea can be a cause of Erectile Dysfunction (ED).
Reason 9: Sweating and chest pain at night
Cardiac deaths occur in the early morning hours with people who suffer from sleep apnea.
Something else you should be aware of – shirt collar size is a good indicator of sleep apnea, especially in people with high blood pressure and those who awake gasping and choking at night. If you are a woman and have a neck size of 16 inches or more, or you are a man with a shirt collar neck size of 17 inches or more and have any of the above reasons to be concerned, please check with your doctor.