If you’re tired, headachy, and feel run down during the day, it’s a good idea to rule out sleep apnea on your path to finding answers for your symptoms. Up to 20% of women and 30% of men have sleep apnea, and many of them are completely unaware of it.
Loud snoring and waking up gasping for air are symptoms of sleep apnea — a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Sleep studies are useful in identifying sleep problems, and the first step is to visit a health care provider.
Sleep apnea specialist and internal medicine physician Samuel Fink, MD, wants patients to know the vital role sleep plays in your overall health. When you drift off to sleep, your brain is hard at work recharging, regulating chemicals, and keeping you healthy.
Poor sleep is detrimental to your health in many ways. Look out for the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, and discuss them with Dr. Fink.
Sleep and health
Sleep is a basic requirement like nutrition. You need enough quality sleep for your body to function properly. Adequate sleep contributes to immune function, cognitive performance, healthy blood pressure, mood regulation, and hormonal balance — to name a few.
Failing to get enough sleep, or experiencing interruptions in your sleep, is linked to a host of chronic diseases, including:
Undiagnosed sleep disorders greatly impact your health and well-being.
Sleep apnea overview
When you drift off to sleep at night and awake in the morning, it’s normal to assume that you’ve had a sound, restful sleep. After all, it’s uncommon to remember anything between falling asleep and waking up aside from dreams.
Sleep is complex. Many biological processes occur while you’re asleep. Your body’s cells go through repair, nerve cells communicate, and various proteins and hormones release. Any disruption to this process can have major effects on your health.
Sleep apnea is one such disruption. This sleep disorder causes frequent but brief pauses in breathing during sleep. Individuals usually aren’t aware of these short pauses and may assume that they’re getting uninterrupted sleep.
The danger is that the frequent pauses in breathing caused by sleep apnea interrupt oxygen to your brain and tissues and disrupt biological processes that occur during sleep. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it’s important to know its symptoms.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Adults aren’t the only ones at risk for sleep apnea. Children are increasingly diagnosed with this common sleep disorder. It can even affect toddlers. Sleep apnea warning signs include:
- Unrefreshed sleep or trouble sleeping
- Loud snoring
- Waking with shortness of breath
- Waking to use the bathroom at night
- Morning headaches
- Problems concentrating during the day
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Dry mouth
- Scratchy throat
Many children with sleep apnea exhibit behavioral or learning issues. Their symptoms may also include:
- Poor attention span for age
- Weak academic performance
- Problems learning new information
- Daytime sleepiness
- Crankiness in toddlers
- Slow growth for age
If you’re concerned that you, your child, or another loved one may have sleep apnea, visit a sleep apnea specialist for a comprehensive evaluation.
Am I at risk for sleep apnea?
While the risk factors of sleep apnea in children are less evident, doctors have an understanding of what puts adults at risk. You’re more likely to have sleep apnea if you have the following risk factors:
- Large neck size
- Middle age
- High blood pressure
- Family history
Of these risk factors, excess body weight puts you at the greatest risk for sleep apnea.
Learning the warning signs of sleep apnea can alert you to potential issues so that you can seek professional help. If you have sleep apnea symptoms, you’re in good hands with Dr. Fink. Contact our office to schedule an appointment, or request one online.