Waking Up to the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

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Wisconsin Sleep 

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Do you feel groggy in the morning instead of refreshed? Are you sleepy during the day? Forgetful? Do you snore when you sleep? Are you a restless sleeper?


These are all symptoms of sleep apnea, now estimated to affect more than 12 million Americans.


The word "apnea" means a pause in breathing. Many people who snore regularly experience a few breathing pauses throughout the night. However, when people suffer repetitive and recurrent apneas during sleep, the diagnosis becomes sleep apnea.


Individuals suffering from sleep apnea may be completely unaware they have this problem because their apneas may not fully wake them, or the disruption is too brief to be remembered.

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Often, family members and bed partners recognize the problem first, because they witness the episodes of loud snoring separated by silence due to breathing pauses.


Symptoms of Sleep Apnea


Common symptoms of sleep apnea are: 

  • Loud snoring with snorts or gasps 
  • Periods of not breathing (apneas) in sleep 
  • Significant daytime sleepiness, drowsiness or pervasive fatigue despite sufficient time spent sleeping
  • Awakening feeling poorly rested in the morning 
  • Morning headaches, memory problems and attention problems 
  • Irritability

Certain physical features or body types can make adults more likely to have sleep apnea. Those with a small lower jaw; prominent overbite; obesity; significant weight gain in recent years; a short, large neck; nasal breathing obstruction and/or very crowded teeth often have a smaller air passage in the back of the throat.


According to Ruth Benca, MD, PhD, medical director of the Wisconsin Sleep Clinic, "Many people tend to write off their snoring or apnea as a minor problem. That is not the case. If sleep apnea goes unattended, there can be serious risks and consequences. The silver lining is that treatment for sleep apnea seems to help decrease the risk of death and serious complications."


Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea


Untreated sleep apnea is associated with a higher risk of potentially serious health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure 
  • Two- to three-fold increased risk of heart attack and stroke 
  • Depression and irritability 
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

Date Published: 11/16/2010

News tag(s):  ruth m benca

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