Snoring excepted, many people with sleep apnea suffer in silence. But snoring alone is not always a symptom of sleep apnea, and if only people realized the impact sleep apnea on their lives, they would be more likely to speak up to their doctor.
Following are five common, but less-obvious, symptoms of sleep apnea.
1. Rough Mornings
Sleep apnea often leaves its victims feeling unrefreshed and unrested because it results in repeated breathing stoppages and sleep cycle interruptions. Those with sleep apnea also frequently experience morning headaches, and wake with a dry mouth and/or sore throat.
2. Daytime Drowsiness and Fatigue
This lack of adequate sleep takes its toll over the course of the day, leaving sleep apnea sufferers feeling drowsy. Over time, untreated sleep apnea can lead to outright fatigue, and impair one’s motor skills and responsiveness. Those with sleep apnea are prone to dozing off at unfortunate times, including while driving; as we mentioned last month, sleep apnea has become a major concern among truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators.
3. Difficulty Remaining Focused and Driven
Sleep apnea affects people mentally as well as physically. It erodes the ability to concentrate, and it can progressively contribute to cognitive problems and memory loss.
The fatigue can seriously erode a person’s engagement in life. Things that used to be exciting and engaging can lose interest to a person. They may stop practicing hobbies, may express less enjoyment in food or drink, and may have diminished or absent sexual desire.
4. Abrupt Awakenings During Sleep
Although insomnia is sometimes associated with sleep apnea, many people with sleep apnea are able to fall asleep without problem; it’s staying asleep, and breathing freely during sleep, that pose challenges. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the disorder, is often accompanied by both snoring and episodes in which sufferers wake up suddenly amid sleep, choking or gasping for air.
People may attribute these awakenings to a variety of causes. Once awake, people become aware of a need to urinate, so they think the need to urinate woke them up. The choking or gasping combined with an elevated heart rate often makes people think they were having a nightmare, and sometimes they were–a nightmare of being smothered or choked.
5. Breathing Cessation During Sleep
One of the reasons people don’t seek diagnosis and treatment for potential sleep apnea is that they’re asleep or in a dreamlike state when they experience characteristic symptoms, such as repeated episodes in which breathing stops. If your sleep partner comments about loud snoring and breathing interruptions, or if you routinely experience daytime fatigue and irritability, it’s advisable to contact a sleep dentist or other qualified health professional for a sleep apnea assessment.
Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry has helped a number of patients successfully treat sleep apnea and restore healthy, restful sleep with the use of comfortable, custom-made oral appliances. To schedule your appointment, please call the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado at (303) 691-0267.