Loud, chronic snoring, fatigue, and forgetfulness are common symptoms of sleep apnea. Often, patients wake up abruptly while choking or gasping, because of an inability to breathe. The disorder affects 18 million Americans – that’s one out of every 15 people. It can have a serious negative impact on work, relationships, and quality of life. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause death in some cases. It’s also known to contribute to the risk for heart attack, high blood pressure, and diabetes complications.
But there are some lesser-known symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. If you often feel tired and have any of the symptoms described in this article, visit Dr. Gershberg in Bryn Mawr for a sleep evaluation. He can refer you for a sleep study, and he offers effective, minimally invasive treatment with a simple oral appliance.
Obesity and Neck Circumference
It’s an epidemic. The CDCP tells us that 65% of adults and 15% of children are obese, meaning they have a body mass index over 30. Adults with a neck circumference over 17” are more prone to suffer with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), as well. Obesity increases many health risks, including developing diabetes, heart disease, and adding significant stress on all organs of the body. In addition, being overweight increases the risk for sleep-disordered breathing, in children and adults.
People who are overweight and have OSA may struggle to find the energy to exercise for weight loss, because of the fatigue caused by sleep disorders.
And here’s an interesting, related fact. One study conducted on people of average weight who slept 6.5 or fewer hours per night found increased between glucose levels, indicating hormonal changes that could result in weight gain in the future. Simply put, sleeping less could influence future weight gain. The researcher found that inadequate sleep can produce a mental desire to consume more calories, because the human mind closely relates the need for sleep and food.
If you regularly wake up with a headache, life can be challenging – and you may have a sleep disorder. The headaches may feel like tension headaches or even migraines. We know that 15 to 74% of sleep apnea sufferers struggle with morning headaches. The most common disorder associated with morning headaches is obstructive sleep apnea. There’s a vicious cycle between headaches and sleep apnea. People with daily morning headaches are two to eight times more prone to experience sleep disorders, and sleep apnea sufferers face increased risk severe, recurring headaches. Scientists have found that the link relates to serotonin, melatonin, and the hypothalamus of the brain. The good news is, treating sleep apnea can reduce or eliminate related headaches.
Dry Mouth in the Morning
Snoring occurs when the tissues in the back of the mouth partially interfere with breathing. As the tissues vibrate, the sound we call snoring occurs. Sleeping with an open mouth can, obviously, cause a dry mouth. However, according to research on the NCBI website, people with OSA are twice as likely to suffer from dry mouth than snorers who don’t have OSA.
Nocturia – the Need to Urinate Frequently at night
For sleep apnea sufferers, nighttime bathroom visits can exceed the normal one or two that are considered healthy. Nocturia is the condition of waking many times during the night to urinate, and sleep apnea sufferers are known to wake up to six or more times. The clinical explanation for this phenomenon is that because the body wakes urgently to breathe, due to apneic episodes, the brain sends an inappropriate information to the body, and the heart excretes a protein urging the body to remove sodium and water – to urinate. When OSA is the cause of nocturia, successful sleep apnea treatment resolve the issue.
Depression, Irritability, Mood Swings
Sleep apnea can cause depression, mood swings, personality changes, and irritability. Even if an OSA sufferer feels as if he has slept a full eight hours, repeated awakenings to initiate breathing will ultimately cause sleep deprivation. The deep, restful REM sleep cycle is never sufficiently achieved. A natural side effect of inadequate sleep is a change in mental outlook. Normal daily stresses and challenges may prompt a person to tears or irrational frustration, if he has not had sufficient sleep.
Night Sweats and Dehydration
One study on the Annals of Family Medicine website found that, particularly for men, night sweats can be a symptom of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. Research published on BMJ Open reveals that frequent night sweats can be a marker for sleep apnea, and that a third of sleep apnea patients experience night sweats. Treatment with PAP or CPAP in these patients yielded good results. Therefore, if you suffer with night sweats, you should understand that they could be a symptom of sleep apnea.
Also know that dehydration could result. Dehydration in the morning commonly occurs in sleep apnea patients, because when the body is starved of oxygen, it consumes more water. Add to this frequent nighttime urination and night sweats, and you could suffer serious dehydration!
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is associated with obesity, as well as sleep apnea. More than 80% of people with GERD experience worsening symptoms at night, and three-quarters awake during the night, due to acid reflux or heartburn. Untreated GERD increases the risk for developing esophageal cancers. Researchers are split as to the cause of GERD symptoms worsening at night. They know that gravity aids in keeping digestive fluids in the stomach when people stand upright. However, some believe that airway pressure changes cause nighttime reflux, and others think that vocal cord spasms may be to blame. Regardless of the reason GERD worsens at night, patients should seek treatment for both issues.
Though commonly associated with children, bed wetting can be an adult or childhood symptom of sleep apnea. Children who wet the bed long after being potty trained, and also express common symptoms of sleep apnea, like loud snoring, abruptly waking from sleep coughing, or thrashing during sleep, should be taken assessed for sleep apnea. One study reports that 7% of adult sleep apnea sufferers report bed wetting, or secondary enuresis. The condition worsens as other sleep apnea systems advance. Adults who suffer with bed wetting should seek medical assessment, because the symptom could indicate disease, illness, or a sleep disorder.
Impotence, Low Sex Drive, and Bad Decisions
Human sex hormones increase with sleep and decrease without sleep. Therefore, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders can cause impotence in men and a reduced sex drive in women. Research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine support these facts. Another report published on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website tells us that lack of sleep can seriously affect how a person reads another’s sexual intentions. As with too much alcohol consumption, too little sleep can actually result in misreading signals of a potential romantic interest. As you can imagine, this complication could result in serious accusations of sexual harassment and poor decision making, in regards to sex.
Insomnia or Waking During the Night
Though sleep apnea occurs in people who are asleep, insomnia and sleep apnea are linked. Insomnia is defined as having trouble falling and/or remaining asleep, and more than 55 million Americans suffer with insomnia. The disorder can be short term or chronic. Nearly 40 to 60% of sleep apnea sufferers also struggle with insomnia, compounding their sleep disorder issues. On possible link is upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), which appears common in insomniacs. Anyone who suffers from insomnia and also wakes up during the night should be examined for sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Consultation
With an office in Bryn Mawr on the Main Line, Dr. Stephen Gershberg is a respected and trusted dentist, who also helps sleep apnea patients find much needed relief. Because obstructive sleep apnea can literally steal your quality of life and has actually caused deaths, it is vital that you pursue professional examination, should you express any symptoms. Call our sleep apnea clinic today at 610-527-6700 to reserve your consultation with Dr. Gershberg.