Obstructive Sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common sleep disorder, affecting as many as one in four men in Australia. Because it occurs when you are asleep the symptoms of sleep apnoea may take a while for you to notice – or perhaps your bed partner has been affected. Let’s take a look at some of the most common sleep apnea symptoms, and the possible treatments you can try.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder, where the walls of your throat collapse during sleep. This closes off your upper airway and stops you from breathing for a short interval. This interval can last for anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute; until your brain realises that you are not getting enough oxygen.
Your brain then sends a quick wake up call, so you wake up slightly, often to change position, which relaxes your upper airway. You generally drift off to sleep again, very often not even aware that it has happened. However, this cycle of events can happen multiple times during the night, causing you low quality sleep, which then has an effect on other areas of your health and wellbeing.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnoea?
Some of the most common sleep apnea symptoms include
Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
We all need a certain amount of quality sleep to function during the day. Waking up very tired, like you haven’t slept a wink can be an indication that you didn’t actually sleep properly because of a sleep disorder- you might just not remember why.
Snoring may occur when your airways collapse and vibrate.
Gasping, choking for air
You may not be aware but your bed partner might notice you choking or gasping for breath during the night. Some people might snort or startle, which may not wake them up but might catch the attention of the person who shares a bed with you.
Concentration and memory problems
Not getting enough sleep can have an adverse effect on your memory and concentration. This is particularly dangerous if you are driving a motor vehicle or operating heavy-duty machinery, as lack of concentration can lead to errors of judgement.
Low libido and sex drive
A sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnoea also affects your sex drive and libido.
Mood swings and general irritability
Feeling tired and unrested can cause mood swings and a general feeling of irritability. This can further affect your interpersonal relationships and work balance, leading to burn out and high stress levels.
Despite it being a sleep disorder, another of the more common sleep apnea symptoms is wear and tear on your teeth. This is because you may grind your teeth during a bout of sleep apnoea and over time, this causes damage to your enamel or the bite surfaces of your teeth.
You might not notice this yourself, but your dentist may pick up on it during a check up.
The effects of teeth grinding or bruxism can also extend to straining the muscles in your face, neck and jaw, and you may wake up feeling sore in your upper body in the mornings. For other patients, one of the more prevalent sleep apnea symptoms is waking up with a headache from the strain of grinding during the night.
In extreme cases, patients may experience loose teeth as a result of obstructive sleep apnoea.
Furthermore, people who suffer from sleep apnoea are at increased risk of high blood pressure and motor vehicle accidents. They may also have an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
What Causes Sleep Apnoea?
sleep apnea symptoms seem to present more often in men over the age of thirty than women and there appear to be a number of contributing factors. Some of the potential causes include
- Large tonsils often play a role in children who exhibit the symptoms of sleep apnoea
- Drinking alcohol in the evening, because it relaxes the muscles in the throat. It also slows down the brain’s response to disordered breathing.
- Drugs, sedatives and medication
- Congestion and obstruction in the nasal passages
What Treatments Are Available For Sleep Apnoea?
Many of the interventions to treat sleep apnea symptoms are lifestyle-based and may require you to build new habits. Because sleep apnoea is a medical condition with potentially serious complications, it is recommended you seek professional treatment advice.
Losing weight almost always has a positive impact on the intensity and frequency of sleep apnea symptoms.
Quit drinking and smoking
Any stimulants you are taking, including caffeine, need to be reduced, if not quit completely. Do not drink alcohol and caffeine after 4 pm, as it can interfere with the quality of your sleep.
Devices to manage sleep apnoea
There is a range of devices available, which actually keep your lower jaw open while you sleep, to physically prevent the collapse of your airways. A mask known as a ‘nasal continuous positive airway pressure’ or CPAP can be worn at night, which blows air into your throat, to maintain the correct pressure.
A mandibular advancement splint may work for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnoea. This is like a mouth guard and is worn at night to keep your jaws open.
Stress management and relaxation
High levels of stress and an inability to relax can also have an effect on the quality of your sleep. Getting exercise every day is an important part of maintaining balance in your life, and meditation or yoga can help you to unwind at the end of a long day.
If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms of sleep apnoea or are concerned about your quality of sleep, it’s best to speak to a professional to see where improvements can be made. Please contact us for a convenient appointment: