Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Signs and symptoms that can alert you to sleep apnea are:

  • high blood pressure
  • overweight, but not always
  • a dry mouth upon awakening
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • excessive perspiring during sleep
  • heartburn
  • reduced libido
  • insomnia
  • frequent trips to the bath room during the night restless sleep
  • waking up sweating during the night
  • feeling un refreshed in the morning after a night’s sleep
  • loud snoring
  • morning headaches

Sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing periodically throughout sleep, which upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. The brain senses the reduction in oxygen and the increase in carbon dioxide and sends a signal to resume breathing. The person wakes up in response to the breathing arousal signal from the brain. The muscles of the tongue and throat awaken to enlarge the airway and allow carbon dioxide to escape and oxygen to enter. The waking episodes are necessary to restart breathing (and save the person's life), but they prevent the individual from getting high-quality sleep.

On a physical level, the sleep apnea sufferer cannot breathe because they have an obstructed airway. The throat muscles and tongue relax too much and may be enlarged or misshapen, so the air passage is narrowed during sleep.

Sleep apnea sufferers awaken frequently to restart breathing, but they remember little or nothing of being awake. Frequent waking at night may be a sign of sleep apnea. The frequency of waking episodes varies, but may be between ten and sixty per night. Severe sleep apnea may cause the sleeper to experience more than 100 waking episodes in a single night. One measure of sleep apnea is that the person must stop breathing for a period of at least ten seconds or more, five times within an hour. Sleep apnea sufferers may stop breathing for as long as two minutes.


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