Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
If someone close to you has spoken of your loud snoring and has noticed that you often wake up abruptly, gasping for air, you should consult your oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS). These could be signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The risks of untreated OSA include heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart disease and decreased libido. In addition, OSA causes daytime drowsiness that can result in accidents, lost productivity and relationship problems.
Snoring Is Not Necessarily Sleep Apnea
It’s estimated that approximately 30% to 50% of the U.S. population snore at one time or another. Everyone has heard stories of men and women whose snoring can be heard rooms away from where they are sleeping. Snoring of this magnitude can cause several problems, including relationship discord, sleep disturbances and waking episodes sometimes caused by one’s own snoring. Chronic snoring does not always equal sleep apnea, but it can still require treatment, and there are several options available.
Some non-medical treatments that may reduce or eliminate snoring include:
- Losing weight, even as little as 10 pounds.
- Changing your sleeping position (because you tend to snore more when sleeping on your back than on your side).
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and heavy meals, especially within two hours of bedtime.
- Avoiding sedatives, which can relax your throat muscles and increase the tendency for airway obstruction related to snoring.
What are OSA Symptoms?
During sleep, the upper airway can be obstructed by excess tissue in the back of the throat, large tonsils and/or a large tongue; the obstruction will cause the diaphragm and chest muscles to work harder. In some patients, malposition of the jaw, a thick neck, and narrow nasal passages can contribute to the problem. The suspension of breathing (apnea) or the reduction of airflow, brought about by these factors initiate impulses from the brain to wake the person just enough to restart the breathing process.
Those who have OSA are often unaware of their condition and believe they sleep well. Common symptoms leading individuals to seek help are daytime drowsiness or complaints of snoring and breathing problems observed by a bed partner.
OSA symptoms may include:
- Snoring with pauses in breathing (apnea)
- Excessive daytime drowsiness
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Restless sleep
- Problem with mental function
- Poor judgment/can’t focus
- Memory loss
- Quick to anger
- High blood pressure
- Nighttime chest pain
- Problem with excess weight
- Large neck (>17” around in men, >16” around in women)
- Morning headaches
- Reduced libido
- Frequent trips to the bathroom at night
If you exhibit several OSA symptoms, it’s important you visit your oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) for a complete examination and an accurate diagnosis.