It is estimated that approximately 20 million adults in the U.S. suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. But what is more alarming is that an estimated 80% of people with sleep apnea don’t get the disorder diagnosed. But who can blame them?! If someone isn’t there to hear you snore loudly or gasp for air while you sleep, one might never know if he/she has sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing pauses in their sleep, usually for a few seconds or minutes at a time. When left untreated, it can increase the risk of health problems, like; high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, worsening of ADHD or diabetes. And aside from these, sleep apnea never comes without leaving its footprints in your daily life. This is why in this article; we bring you some of the common ways that sleep apnea can affect your everyday life:

Daytime fatigue

It’s a known fact, feeling tired during the day can be as a result of not getting enough sleep, and since sleep apnea causes multiple sleep interruptions, it’s a culprit of daytime fatigue.

Insomnia

For the sufferers of sleep apnea who have to deal with several sleep interruptions, delaying their sleeping time to when they are exhausted then becomes a habit in a bid to sleep deeply. To make matters worse, falling back to sleep whenever they wake up in between their night sleep then becomes a challenge.

Loss of brain functions

In order to get a good night’s rest, you need to be able to reach the REM (Rapid eye movement stage of sleep which is the most important stage during sleep) stage and remain there for an adequate period of time. Since a good night sleep is essential for proper brain functioning, lack of oxygen in the brain coupled with the inability to reach the REM sleep in the night disrupts the brain’s normal functioning. Consequently, this makes a lot of people to be forgetful or have difficulty concentrating during the day, which can make daily activities much harder.

Moodiness, irritability or depression

The link between proper sleep and proper brain function has long been established and for those that suffer from any form of sleep disorder, it can be expected for them to find it difficult to properly manage their thoughts and moods. This is why it comes as no surprise that a recent survey by the CDC confirmed that sleep apnea has a direct link with depression. Many who suffer from sleep apnea also find it difficult to remain attentive, whether at work or school. And as regards being irritable and having other mental health challenges, these conditions or emotional states are as a result of being fatigued due to inadequate sleep.

How can sleep apnea be diagnosed?

The only way someone can find out if they have the condition is to spend a night at a sleep center or make use of portable recording equipment while at home; the equipment records oxygen levels, breathing movements, heart rate and snoring through the night. This sleep study must be interpreted by a board certified Sleep Physician.

What to do once you are diagnosed with sleep apnea?

For mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes are usually recommended as well as dental appliances and CPAP. Sufferers are usually encouraged to lose weight, exercise more often, quit smoking or reduce their alcohol intake 2-3 hours before bedtime. More severe conditions often involve therapies or surgeries. Since sleep apnea has the potential to exacerbate underlying disease conditions, and worse predispose its victims to various illnesses, it then becomes important to have yourself diagnosed whenever you feel that you’re not getting enough quality sleep.

 

A message from Dr. Amy Hartsfield:

At TMJ & Sleep Solutions of Alabama, our mission is to provide personalized care to restore quality of life, one patient at a time. If you’re suffering from neurovascular pain, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment!