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How to Know if You Have Sleep Apnea

How to Know if You Have Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder that causes you to briefly stop breathing frequently while sleeping. Because it occurs during sleep, many people are completely unaware that they have sleep apnea. Learning to recognize the warning signs means you can get treatment and lower your risk of associated complications.

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders, affecting an estimated 22 million Americans. Obesity is a major risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Upper airway abnormalities also increase the risk of OSA.

Internal medicine physician Samuel I. Fink, MD, provides top-quality primary care to the Tarzana, California, community. In this post, we share the warning signs of OSA to look out for and what to do if you suspect that you may have sleep apnea.

Why it’s important to recognize signs of sleep apnea

Untreated sleep apnea puts you at risk for serious health problems. When you have OSA, your body is repeatedly starved of oxygen for several periods throughout the night. Every system in your body depends on oxygen to function properly. Frequent interruptions in oxygen supply impacts many areas of the body.

Sleep apnea increases your risk for:

Untreated sleep apnea can also shorten your lifespan. 

How to know if you have sleep apnea

A doctor can diagnose the condition. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping or waking up feeling as though you haven’t had a restful night, look out for the following warning signs that may indicate you have sleep apnea.

Morning headache

If you wake up with a headache that resolves within an hour or so of being awake, you could have sleep apnea. Morning headaches are very common in patients with OSA.

The exact mechanism behind sleep apnea related headaches isn’t fully understood. Researchers theorize that low blood oxygen levels during periods of when breathing lapses during sleep causes carbon dioxide to accumulate in the bloodstream. As a result, blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the brain may expand, triggering a headache.

Excessive daytime sleepiness

Many patients with OSA experience excessive sleepiness during the day. If you reach for your coffee every morning and then find yourself depending on more caffeine to drag yourself through your day, this could be a sign of OSA. 

Because feeling tired or excessively sleepy during the day can be a sign of various other conditions, many people fail to make the connection between their daytime drowsiness and sleep apnea.

Loud snoring

Frequent loud snoring is more than a habit that annoys your bed partner. It’s the most common sign of sleep apnea. If your bed partner has complained about your loud snoring, you may want to pay attention to this potential warning sign. 

Snoring on its own doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea. However, loud snoring accompanied by symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness or morning headaches raises suspicion for sleep apnea.

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, Dr. Fink can arrange for you to have a sleep study done. During a sleep study, sensors transmit information about your brain waves, blood oxygen, heart rate, and breathing pattern. A technologist monitors you through the night, and Dr. Fink reviews the results of your sleep study and discusses the next steps. 

Sleep apnea is treatable. If you have symptoms, we can help you get answers and treatment. Give our office a call to schedule a visit with Dr. Fink, or request an appointment online today.

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