Many people discover they have sleep apnea because a partner, roommate, or child informs them that they snore loudly during the night. However, if you live alone, you may never know if you snore and might miss this vital clue that you have an obstructed airway. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and, in some extreme cases, death. If you’re concerned you have sleep apnea but live alone, here are some symptoms you can look out for.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Before we go into the symptoms, let’s first look more closely at what sleep apnea is. Sleep apnea is a disorder where the sufferer has interrupted periods of breathing as they sleep. The pause can last as little as a second or two or as long as several minutes and can happen multiple times a night. Many times, when the sufferer begins breathing again, he or she does so with a snore or snort that can alert others to the issue. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive is by far the most common type and occurs when the muscles in the throat relax, blocking the flow of air and making it difficult or impossible for the sleeper to breathe. Only about 20% of those diagnosed with sleep apnea have the other form, central sleep apnea, where the brain fails to signal the body to breathe during sleep.
Signs You May Have Sleep Apnea
As stated above, the most obvious red flag that you have sleep apnea is disruptive and frequent snoring. However, you may never know this if you live and predominantly sleep alone. Here are some other signs you can be on the lookout for:
Waking up with a dry mouth
Those with sleep apnea tend to sleep with their mouths open in an attempt to get more air into their lungs. This leads to a very dry mouth upon waking and those with this symptom sometimes even get up several times during the night to drink a glass of water.
Do you wake up frequently with a headache? It can be a sign that you aren’t sleeping enough or that your sleep is being disrupted. When you have frequently disrupted sleep due to sleep apnea, your body never gets the deep sleep it needs to rejuvenate and the result can be frequent painful headaches.
Pain the jaw or teeth
Pain in the jaw or teeth upon waking can indicate that you grind your teeth at night, a symptom of stress that can lead to a number of problems like TMJ and headaches. It can also be a sign that you’re straining your jaw muscles during the night in order to breathe, which indicates you are experiencing apnea.
Waking up gasping
You don’t need a partner to tell you when you wake up choking or gasping for air, and this can be one of the most obvious (and alarming) signs of sleep apnea. This occurs when you aren’t getting enough oxygen and can lead to harmful long-term effects like an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Everyone occasionally experiences fatigue during the day, but those with sleep apnea have it on a higher level. They may fall asleep at their desks while watching TV, or even while driving. If you feel you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep but still feel extremely sleepy during the day, it could be a sign of apnea.
There’s only one way to know for sure if you have sleep apnea: get a screening or sleep test done by an expert like those at Sleep Cycle Center. Once you have been diagnosed, we can explore treatment options that will help you get a restful night’s sleep and increase your overall well-being.