Do You Have Sleep Apnea and Don’t Know It?

June 8, 2017

Sleep is one of the most important elements of staying healthy, so how do you know if you’re getting enough of it?

Even if you think you’re getting plenty of sleep, there may be warning signs that your sleep is being disrupted:

  • You look forward to bedtime as soon as you wake up, no matter how much sleep you get
  • You turn down family or social events in favor of a nap
  • Your spouse complains about your snoring
  • You’ve been told your breathing is irregular during the night or you may wake yourself up gasping
  • Excessive body movement during sleep

While snoring is often the most common sign, there are other signs and conditions such as morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, feeling irritable, mood swings, depression, memory or learning problems, not being able to concentrate, obesity, dry mouth or sore throat when you wake, waking up frequently to urinate and physical abnormalities of the nose, throat or upper airway.

If you have one or more of these signs, you may need a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea or another condition. These studies are available at Mercy Hospital Carthage Sleep Lab. The lab helps people who have a variety of sleep disorders, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea, which is characterized by brief interruptions of breathing.

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders, with more than 18 million U.S. adults afflicted, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It’s a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that is more common in men.

There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea, which is less common, occurs when the brain fails to send appropriate signals to breathing muscles to initiate respiration.

Obstructive sleep apnea, which is more common, is when air cannot flow into or out of a person’s nose or mouth, although efforts to breathe continue. This is caused by mechanical and structural problems in the airway.

Sometimes apnea can occur when throat muscles and the tongue relax during sleep and partially block the opening of the airway. When muscles of the soft palate relax and sag, the airway can become blocked.

Ingestion of alcohol and sleeping pills can increase the frequency and duration of breathing pauses in people with sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea causes serious disturbances in normal sleep patterns that lead to serious problems when awake. Often people will feel very sleepy during the day, which will lead to a lack of concentration and performance.

As a result, they may be fatigued and fall asleep at school, on the job or behind the wheel of a vehicle. Untreated sleep apnea patients are three times more likely to have automobile accidents.

Sleep apnea patients also can develop other disorders such as congestive heart failure, stroke and high blood pressure, which have been linked to 50 percent of these patients. Sleep apnea also is being linked with adults and children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As many as 7 in 10 patients with Type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of having obstructive sleep apnea.

If you think you could benefit from a sleep study, ask your primary care doctor for a referral to the nationally accredited Mercy Sleep Center – Carthage at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus, 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way. The phone number is 417-359-1310.