The main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, are loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep. However, there are many other less-familiar signs of sleep apnea, and they might surprise you.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep condition that causes the muscles in your throat to relax repeatedly during sleep. This blocks your air passage and interrupts breathing. This may happen every time a person stops breathing, which can occur up to 120 times per hour. This disruption in breathing takes a great toll on the body and OSA can be a serious sleep disorder.
The Risks of Sleep Apnea
Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Loud snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep and waking up gasping or choking are common symptoms of the condition.
Not everyone with sleep apnea snores and vice versa, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. You may be able to ascertain the difference simply based on how you feel during the day. Snoring on its own may not be disruptive enough to cause you to have restless sleep, as it does not normally awaken the sufferer. That means you simply won’t be as tired during the day. But there are other signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and if you experience any of these please get it checked out.
More Signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
You always seem to have a headache in the morning.
You wake up most mornings with a headache, which can last for several hours after you get up. The pain is usually located toward the front of your head and on both sides. It might feel as if your head is being squeezed.
You can't concentrate during the day.
You might have trouble concentrating because obstructive sleep apnea makes it hard to get enough restorative sleep. Keep track of how often it's difficult for you to concentrate at work, at school or on a project. You may also find yourself falling asleep or nodding off while reading, watching television or driving.
You experience mood changes, such as feeling irritable or depressed.
You might frequently feel angry or annoyed, even at slight inconveniences. You may also feel generally down, depressed or sad and frequently cry.
You constantly sweat in your sleep.
Waking up to sweaty sheets and pajamas on a regular basis may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
You rarely feel in the mood for sex.
Obstructive sleep apnea can decrease your libido.
You often wake up with a sore throat — but you aren't sick.
You might wake up with a dry and/or sore throat due to repeated gasping, choking and blocked airflow during sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition, quite common, and can potentially be life threatening.
Check with your doctor or dentist if you experience these symptoms on a regular basis or if your partner routinely complains about your loud snoring.
Dr. Amal Ali, DDS is a biological and cosmetic dentist at National Integrated Health Associates serving Washington, DC, Maryland and the metro area. Dr. Ali's philosphy is "healthy mouths = healthy bodies" and she enjoys educating patients on the connection between oral health and good overall health. She is a general dentist with over 21 years of comprehensive experience in cosmetic and biological dentistry, specializing in restorative dentistry, metal-free crowns, zirconia and porcelain, endodontic and dental surgery, safe mercury removal and professional cosmetic smile restorations with Invisalign, teeth whitening and orthodontic treatment.