Sleep apnea can exist for years without being diagnosed. This is because the sleep disorder manifests itself only during sleep, just when the person suffering from it is totally out of the bounds of consciousness to actually notice the irregularities. On the other hand, his bed partner may take the snoring and snorting as normal occurrences.
An undiagnosed case of sleep apnea, however, can be irritating and fatal all at the same time. Those who have it can experience as simple as fatigue and as life-threatening as heart disease. But the question is, how can one be so sure if he or his loved one is already having bouts with sleep apnea? There are warning signs to look out for, and they come as sleep apnea symptoms.
Red Flag: The signs and symptoms
Sleep apnea requires prompt attention. If the following symptoms surface, a consultation with a doctor or a sleep specialist must immediately take place.
1. Snoring. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but snoring is typical to those who suffer from the sleep disorder. Loud and chronic snoring is ordinarily accompanied by grunts, snorts, gasps for breath, and restless movements.
2. Breathing irregularities. Sleep apnea renders a person to have breath pauses that lead to frequent and brief silences during sleep, but which then break into loud snoring. It is the bed partner who notices these breath intervals.
3. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). It is described as the unordinary and persistent sleepiness. People experiencing EDS normally feel the urge to and sometimes involuntarily fall asleep for brief moments many times during the day and when performing daily itinerary such as eating, talking over the phone, and driving. Over time, EDS becomes a threat to someone’s performance at work and in school because it usually weakens a person’s competency to complete tasks.
4. Daytime fatigue. Due to disrupted sleep, people with sleep apnea normally feel tired as though they haven’t slept the night before. It then results in forgetfulness, lack of concentration, and learning difficulties. Mood changes are also apparent, causing the person to become irritable and anxious.
5. Depression. Although it is not clear how exactly sleep apnea contributes to depression, it is said that people with the sleep disorder are five times more prone to developing depression. Sleep apnea is also reported to aggravate an existing case of depression.
6. Morning headache. People suffering from sleep apnea wake up with morning headache. In fact, statistics says that headaches occur in approximately half of the people with sleep apnea. Headaches at night are also reported.
7. Other symptoms. People with sleep apnea have a frequent need to urinate at night and experience excessive sweating when asleep. Upon waking up, they tend to have a dry throat. Sexual dysfunction is also observed from people with sleep apnea.
Experts suggest that the more sleep apnea symptoms present in a person and the more intense they are, the more severe his case of sleep apnea is. Undergoing sleep test and treatment then is necessary. But because it is hard for a potential patient to observe some of these symptoms from himself, the bed partner is put in a place of greater accountability.
Any suspected case of sleep apnea should not be taken for granted. Rather, it should be monitored extensively.