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Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder characterized by intermittent breathing interruptions due to partial or complete airway obstruction during sleep. It can quickly go undetected due to its sometimes subtle symptoms. 

Sleep apnea affects people of various ages and has many symptoms. It is a severe condition and, when left untreated, can lead to your brain receiving less oxygen than it needs and some serious health conditions.

While some of the signs of sleep apnea may seem obvious, other signs you may not initially associate with sleep apnea may surprise you. Understanding some subtle signs of sleep apnea can be crucial for early detection and supporting effective management of the condition. Let’s look at some surprising signs of sleep apnea that you shouldn’t overlook.

#1. Morning Headaches

If you wake up with a headache, you may not think much about it initially. However, if morning headaches happen regularly, it can indicate sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea causes breathing pauses during sleep and decreases oxygen levels in the blood and brain, leading to morning headaches. Depending on the frequency of the headaches, especially when combined with other symptoms like snoring, daytime tiredness, or sleepiness, it is essential to consult with a sleep specialist or your doctor for a sleep study.

#2. Waking Up, Choking or Gasping For Air

A signature symptom of sleep apnea is waking up suddenly with a sensation of choking or gasping for air. This happens when the airway becomes obstructed or narrow, and breathing is disrupted, prompting the brain to rouse the individual from sleep.

Reoccurring episodes need to be adequately addressed by a sleep specialist. You will likely be required to participate in a sleep study, and you and your doctor should monitor even seemingly isolated incidents.

#3. Nighttime Sweating

Excessive sweating while sleeping when it’s not due to bedding or a warm room temperature can be a sign of sleep apnea. This is one way the body may respond to oxygen deprivation during sleep apnea episodes, which can trigger night sweats. If you are often drenched in sweat, consult a specialist to undergo a sleep evaluation despite sleeping in a cooler environment.

#4. Impaired Cognitive Function

Considering how important proper sleep is to cognitive function, chronic sleep disruptions associated with sleep apnea can significantly impair cognitive function. This can lead to difficulties concentrating, mood disturbances, and memory problems.

If you notice a decline in your mental abilities despite thinking that you are getting enough sleep, sleep apnea may be a contributing factor. Consider doing a sleep study and consulting with your doctor for a medical evaluation to determine the cause of impaired cognitive function.

#5. Frequent Nighttime Urination

Nocturia, or the feeling that you need to urinate frequently during sleeping, can be a result of sleep apnea. The body’s response to oxygen deprivation can lead to the release of certain hormones, including atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), which impacts fluid balance. If you get up multiple times at night to go to the bathroom, you should consult your doctor or a sleep specialist to determine if sleep apnea is the cause.

Sleep apnea can also lead to frequent urinary incontinence, the involuntary release of urine while sleeping. This happens due to the increased pressure on the diaphragm. When the throat muscles relax during a sleep apnea episode and a person with sleep apnea lays down, there’s an increase in pressure, which affects the amount of urine a person can hold.

#6. Chronic Dry Mouth or Sore Throat

Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat consistently can indicate that you may be experiencing sleep apnea and breathing through the mouth while sleeping. Mouth breathing is generally due to nasal congestion or airway obstruction, which causes a person to bypass breathing through the nose and breathe through the mouth instead. Mouth breathing can also lead to halitosis or bad breath, a sore throat in the morning, as well as experiencing a decreased sense of smell or taste.

#7. Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

Chronic teeth grinding during sleep can result from interrupted breathing and sleep disturbances. Unfortunately, this can cause further damage to teeth and lead to other oral health issues.

#8. Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure

Sometimes, patients cannot control their blood pressure even when taking multiple blood pressure medications. If this is the case, they likely also have sleep apnea. When a person has sleep apnea, their sympathetic nervous system suffers due to repeated interruptions to their sleep, which causes a spike in blood pressure.

#9. Acid Reflux

Many people think chronic acid reflex or nighttime heartburn is in response to something they ate or how much they ate. However, if you have frequent episodes of acid reflux in the morning, you should consider doing a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea.

The pauses in breathing caused by sleep apnea allow acid to be pulled into the esophagus. This may lead to stomach acid being backed up into the esophagus.

What to Do if You Think You May Have Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can significantly affect your well-being, quality of sleep, and day-to-day life. If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, consult with a sleep specialist for an at-home sleep test or sleep evaluation so that you can start treatment as soon as possible.

Get a Personalized Treatment Plan for Your Sleep Apnea at DreamZZ Sleep Center

Whether you need an in-home sleep test, CPAP or BiPAP therapy, oral appliance therapy, lifestyle modifications, or a combination of approaches, our sleep specialist will ensure you get the best treatment options.

At DreamZZ Sleep Center, we help you get a restful night’s sleep and improve your quality of life and overall health.

Contact us to book a consultation today and sleep better tonight than you have in ages!