10 Signs You Have Sleep Apnea and May Need Treatment

Updated on August 28, 2023

Did you know sleep apnea is one of the most prevalent sleep disorders in the whole world, affecting 1% to 6% of the population? That’s somewhere around 80 million to 480 million affected people. 

Despite that high number, a significant 80% to 90% of people with apnea remain undiagnosed.

One of the reasons may be because its symptoms aren’t that conspicuous enough to point to sleep apnea. Signs like snoring, dry mouth and irritability can be due to other conditions, and some may not even consider these symptoms as alarming enough to go see a doctor.

If that’s the case, how do you know you have sleep apnea? Read on to learn the telling signs you have sleep apnea.

Signs You Have Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition wherein a person stops breathing for a moment while sleeping. It can either be because of a blocked airway or when the brain doesn’t send a signal to breathe.

The constant waking during the night leads to:

1. Loud Snoring

Loud snoring is one of the most signs you have sleep apnea. When the airway has a partial blockage, it restricts the airflow from moving like normal. This creates vibrations in the upper respiratory airways that we hear as snores.

However, do note that sleep apnea isn’t the only condition that causes snoring. If it’s loud and disruptive enough for your bed partner, though, talk to your doctor about it.

2. Dry Mouth in the Morning

Dry mouth is also a sign you have sleep apnea, but only because it’s a side effect of its other symptoms. If it’s hard for you to breathe while sleeping or if you snore, your mouth will often stay open while you sleep. 

Exposing your mouth to the air for hours can dry the saliva out, and especially so when you breathe through the mouth. The throat also dries out, which makes it feel sore in the morning.

3. Pauses and Gasping

When you stop breathing while sleeping and suddenly wake up gasping for air, sleep apnea is a likely cause. Blockage of the airway can pause the breathing, which then deprives the body of oxygen intake. The brain goes into panic mode, waking you up while gasping.

This is one of the things a sleep specialist measures when you get tested for sleep apnea.

4. Non-Restorative Sleep

Ever wake up feeling unrested even though you’ve had 8 hours of sleep? It might be due to sleep apnea, which wakes you up at night when you stop breathing. 

This disrupts the REM cycle, which adults need to function in a normal manner every day. The stopping of breathing might be preventing you from getting a deep sleep every night.

5. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Daytime fatigue, to the point that you’re dozing off in random times of the day, is a huge sign for sleep apnea. This is more serious than feeling unrested, however, as it may make you feel tired all day long. It can lead to serious accidents if you doze off at inappropriate times, such as when you’re driving.

6. Getting Moody

The lack of proper sleep and fatigue can also cause your mood to be all over the place. You may notice that you feel irritable and short-tempered more often than normal. You may also be prone to anxiety.

If sleep apnea persists for a long time without treatment, you may even develop depression. 

7. Headaches in the Morning

The constant stopping of breathing means the body takes in less oxygen. By extension, the brain also gets lower oxygen levels, which then initiates the blood vessels to widen. This then causes vascular headaches.

When you’re awake, you get your oxygen to normal levels. This explains why headaches often manifest in the mornings only.

8. Irregular Heart Rhythm

Heart palpitations aren’t often indicative of sleep apnea, but it’s possible to have this as a symptom. The change in oxygen levels can also cause atrial fibrillations besides headaches.

In a typical case, it only happens during the night during breathing disruptions. If it persists, though, it may also happen during the day even when your oxygen levels are back to normal.

This is a dangerous symptom as it can lead to blood clots, stroke, and heart failure.

9. Memory Problems

Having extreme disruptions during sleep can mess with the process of turning short-term memories into long-term memories because this happens only during deep sleep. This makes a person forgetful even while awake. You might also have trouble concentrating.

10. High Blood Sugar

Research shows that not getting enough sleep can alter the body’s ability to process glucose. When the cells don’t process the glucose the proper way, it stays in the blood, raising the blood sugar levels.

Not getting the proper treatment for this as soon as possible may lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Your Treatment Options

The most popular treatment for sleep apnea is using a CPAP mask. You wear this over your nose or mouth while sleeping.

It blows air at a gentle, constant rate into the airways to keep them open. Read more information about it here to see if it’s the right treatment for you.

Oral appliances are available as the first line of treatment as they’re often cheaper, more portable, and quieter. You wear it like you would a sports mouthguard to let it hold the lower jar forward. This keeps the airway open while you sleep.

Some lifestyle changes can also help with sleep apnea. Avoiding alcohol and smoking, which are two known exacerbators, can reduce your breathing problems. Overweight people may also have sleep apnea because of their weight, thus losing it can cure it.

Get the Right Treatment for Sleep Apnea

These signs you have sleep apnea can be dangerous if you don’t get the right treatment for your condition ASAP. Talk to a doctor and get a sleep test done 

Meanwhile, find more ways to get a more restful sleep. Feel free to explore our other blog posts today and get more information. 

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