Statistics show that sleep apnea affects 1 in 4 men and 1 in 9 women in the United States, but the majority do not know it. Of the approximately 22 million people with the condition, as many as 80 percent go undiagnosed and untreated. So what is sleep apnea, and how can you tell if you have it?

Sleep apnea is a common – but serious – condition where your regular breathing is interrupted during sleep. The pauses in breathing are called apneas and they can happen hundreds of times each night. Left untreated, sleep apnea can have a negative impact on your overall health, leading to issues like hypertension, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease, hypothyroidism, neurocognitive difficulties, or even death.

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and mixed apnea syndrome. Accounting for 85 percent of the disorder, OSA is the most common form, occurring when a patient’s throat muscles relax to obstruct airflow and interrupt breathing. CSA is more uncommon at one percent of cases, but it’s also more dangerous. With CSA, your muscles do not receive the signals from your brain that monitor breathing movement. The third kind of sleep apnea is mixed apnea syndrome, which is a combination of the first two types.

So what are the warning signs? If you answer “Yes” to the questions below, you may be experiencing the symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Do you wake up with a dry or sore throat?
  • Do you snore loudly?
  • Do you ever wake up choking or gasping?
  • Do you feel sleepy or have a lack of energy during the day?
  • Does your daytime fatigue interfere with work or driving?
  • Do you wake up throughout the night to use the bathroom?
  • Do you wake up with headaches?
  • Is your sleep restless?
  • Do you have insomnia?
  • Do you have mood swings or have a diminished libido?
  • Do you have attention or memory problems?

While sleep apnea can affect anyone, certain factors can increase your risk. Sleep apnea more commonly occurs in men, but women who are obese, pregnant, or menopausal all have a greater chance of developing the condition. As you age, your throat muscles also weaken, which makes sleep apnea prevalent in older adults.

Your body composition and health history also play a role. If you have excess weight or a thicker neck, fat deposits around your upper airway can restrict airflow and obstruct your breathing. High blood pressure is extremely common in people who have sleep apnea. If you have nasal allergies or a family history of sleep disorders, you also are at a greater risk to develop sleep apnea.

Finally, your habits can impact your sleep. The use of alcohol and drugs, like opioid medications, can over-relax your throat muscles, while smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t panic. The experienced team at Sleep Better Tampa can help you stop losing sleep over sleep apnea. If you’d like a free consultation, please give us a call at 813-60-SLEEP. Let us help you rest easier!