It can be tricky to know if your loud snoring is completely natural and normal for you, or if it’s a symptom of something else. While nasal congestion from a cold or allergies can cause snoring, sleep apnea could also be to blame.
Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects around 22 million Americans and causes you to stop breathing as you sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by your muscles relaxing as you sleep, with your tongue and other soft tissues falling down and blocking your airway.
When your airway is partially covered, you get the loud snoring, but when it’s completely blocked, you stop breathing for a few seconds until your body is alerted to correct itself.
Central sleep apnea is similar, but the airway isn’t blocked. Instead, your brain fails to signal to your muscles that you should keep breathing as you sleep. There are a few common symptoms alongside snoring for both types of sleep apnea, so let’s take a look at each one.
If you constantly feel tired and exhausted during the day, this could be a symptom of sleep apnea. Every time your airway is getting blocked as your muscles relax during sleep, your brain wakes you just enough to restore the muscle tone and open your airway again.
This means you’re not able to go through the full four stages of sleep and are missing out on the deep restorative sleep needed to keep your energy levels high.
2. Morning headaches
If you’re waking with a headache each morning, sleep apnea could be to blame. As your breathing is compromised by the sleep apnea, the oxygen levels in your blood are lower and less of it can get to your brain. As a result, your blood vessels dilate in an attempt to direct the oxygen to your brain and vital organs, which can cause vascular headaches.
3. High blood pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common symptom of sleep apnea and it’s all to do with those low oxygen levels.
As your brain becomes aware that there isn’t enough oxygen circulating in your bloodstream, it triggers a spike in your blood pressure by restricting the blood vessels to pump the blood faster to where it’s needed most. When this happens regularly during your sleep, your body gets used to restricted blood vessels, which can result in persistent high blood pressure.
4. Low mood
If you’re waking up grouchy, irritable, and struggle with low mood and even depression, these too can be caused by sleep apnea. Lack of sleep, low energy levels, headaches, and high blood pressure are all difficult symptoms to manage on a day to day basis. A low mood can easily occur as a direct result. In fact, a study found that 46% of people with obstructive sleep apnea had symptoms of depression.
If you’re overweight or obese, you’re more likely to have sleep apnea than an individual with a healthy weight. Obesity can cause excess fatty tissue to build up at the back of the throat, which then falls down and blocks your airway as you sleep. If you’re a man with a neck circumference of 17 inches (16 inches for women), there’s a high chance you could have sleep apnea.
If any of these symptoms are familiar to you and you believe you could be suffering from sleep apnea, book an appointment with Dr. Ana Chester today to explore diagnosis and treatment options.