A quick list of 10 warning signs that you may have sleep apnea, and may need to talk to your doctor. Use this as a guide, but remember that sleep apnea has a huge effect on your quality of life and you may not even know it.
1. Loud or disruptive snoring - Does your spouse hit you at night to roll over, or just to stop the noise? Or worse, do they sleep in a different room just to have quiet. Snoring by itself does not mean sleep apnea, but excessive loud snoring is more than likely being caused by the relaxation of the muscles in the throat and the soft pallet blocking the airway.
2. Recurring daytime fatigue - If you are struggling to sleep at night, you are going to be sleepy during the day. Disruption of your normal circadian rhythm can be the catalyst to even more warning signs.
3. Gasping during sleep - When your airway is blocked, the body's involuntary reaction for more air will cause gasping or chocking to occur in order to clear the airway.
4. Morning groginess - Need we say more? No sleep = Grumpy Bear.
5. Frequent nighttime urination - This one is a bit more scientific. Hold on to your seats. When the soft pallet blocks your airway, your body does weird things. For instance, your heart rate decreases, oxygen saturation in the blood decreases, the blood becomes acidic with increases in carbon dioxide. The gasping we spoke of earlier causes the body to wake just enough to clear the airway. At this point, your poor heart is overworked and actually releases a protein in the bloodstream that signals the body to dispose of salt and water. Thus, the urination. TalkAboutSleep.com has a wonderful article explaining this concept in more depth.
6. Depression - Depression is a serious condition. If depression is not treatable by normal methods, then it may be caused by the lack of quality sleep at night.
7. Irratibility - Just like groginess, this one is simple. No sleep, or rather, no rest = Grumpy Bear.
8. Dry mouth - When the throat is blocked, the body will use any available means at its disposal to get air. Breathing through the mouth is a key sign that not enough air is being taken in. Waking up with a dry mouth can be a sign that you spent most of the night wide open.
9. Memory problems - When the body is deprived of REM sleep, the mind cannot commit events to memory. There are tons of papers and articles written on how the mind commits memory during REM sleep. The lack of REM may mean that you are not able to remember as easily as you once did.
10. Characteristic Risks - If you have any of the classic risks for sleep apnea, you should be checked by your doctor. Risks include, but are not limited to: Obesity, large neck or tongue, smoking, alcohol use, diabetic.
If you are concerned that you may have sleep apnea and your quality of sleep is diminished, please see your doctor to schedule a sleep test.