Sleep apnea is serious because shots of adrenaline are going into the heart 20-400 times per night to re-start your breathing. Sleep is when your body is supposed to rest, and this increased stress causes an overload for the heart, possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea are obvious (snoring, etc.) while some symptoms such as loss of sex drive and irritability may be less of a signal that something is interfering with sleep. Here is a list of some of the symptoms of sleep apnea:
- loud snoring
- morning headaches/nausea
- gasping/choking while asleep
- loss of sex drive/impotence
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- disturbed sleep
- concentration difficulty/memory loss
- excessive urination at night
- restless leg syndrome
There are a number of factors that may put you at a higher risk for sleep apnea. Here are some things that may increase your likelihood of having it.
- having a small upper airway. Sometimes the position of the tonsils on a person makes it more likely for them to have sleep apnea
- having a smaller jaw and/or a large overbite
- having a receeded chin (more commonly known as a "double chin")
- having a large neck (17" or more for men and 16" or more for women)
- smoking/alcohol use
- being over the age of 40
- ethnicity. In order, the most likely ethnicities to experience sleep apnea are African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Your primary care doctor may test you or send you to a sleep center for testing. The sleep center may require you to spend the night at the facility so that your sleep can be monitored by experts.
Contributing factors to Sleep Apnea/Fatigue:
Below are a few potential circumstances that increase the odds of having sleep apnea. We've included some tips as well.
- Allow enough time for adequate sleep. This may sound simple but some of us do not even set aside enough time for the 7-8 hours of sleep required by our bodies.
- Proper diet. Eating too little or eating the wrong types of foods can cause fatigue. To help normalize your blood sugar and increase your energy, look into reducing the intake of processed/refined carbohydrates. Make sure you are getting a form of protein in your diet.
- Anemia. This due to a lack of iron in the body and is the leading cause of fatigue, especially amongst women. This can be evaluated with a simple blood test.
- Depression. This is an emotional disorder that can produce significant daytime fatigue and can negatively affect your quality of life. Contact a counselor or your doctor if you are feeling "down" for longer than a few weeks. There are many options that are available to you.
- Hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland controls your metabolic rate. An underactive thyroid can produce fatigue and weight gain. This can be evaluated with a blood test.
- Caffeine Overload. Small to moderate amounts of caffeine can produce an increase in awareness and attentiveness. However, too much caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability, fatigue and insomnia. Please consider reducing or eliminating caffeine if you are sensitive to its effects.
- Diabetes. This is an abnormally high blood sugar level that occurs when cells in the body are unable to absorb sugar or glucose. This causes the body to have insufficient energy despite the amount of food intake. This can be evaluated with a simple blood test.
- Heart Disease. If the heart can not sufficiently pump blood through the body, daytime fatigue and other serious health complications can occur. If you find it difficult to complete tasks that were once easy, please contact your doctor for assistance.
- Blood Pressure (Medications). Hypotension is low blood pressure. You should check your blood pressure to rule out if this is the cause of fatigue. This is especially the case if you are taking blood pressure medications. If you often find yourself getting light headed after getting up from a seated or lying down position you may have low blood pressure.
- Medications and/or alcohol. Many prescriptions and over the counter medicatons do have fatigue as a side effect. Alcohol is a known sleep disruptor and if alcohol is consumed within 3 hours of bedtime, this can cause sleep restlessness.
- Exercise (or lack there of). Those who do not exercise tend to have less energy than those who do. Exercise not only has benefits for the body like decreasing weight, and increasing energy and heart health, but it can also be really good for the brain. What is the best exercise? The one you will actually do. Starting a new exercise routine can seem intimidating, but if you commit to it for about a month you'll be amazed how you ever did without it. Starting out slow is ok. Ask Dr. Zack about what happens when you don't start out slow if you want a good laugh.
We hope this was helpful. Please ask Dr. Harrington or Dr. James for any further information about sleep apena if you have questions. Have a great day and sleep well!