Snoring, restless sleep, frequent nighttime urination, daytime fatigue–the list of possible sleep apnea symptoms is long. And sometimes the connection between the symptom and the disorder may seem obscure. A common challenge with diagnosing sleep apnea is that many of its symptoms are stand-alone conditions and/or often misattributed to other ailments.
Here is a list of five surprising symptoms of sleep apnea:
Several studies have identified a strong correlation between sleep apnea and depression. Feelings of sadness, a loss of interest in activities, and even inexplicable episodes of crying are all tell-tale signs of depression. Other symptoms include poor concentration, low levels of energy, and a change in appetite.
There is still debate about whether the conditions are simply coexisting, or whether one condition increases the likelihood of developing the other. One thing is clear: people diagnosed with sleep apnea, particularly severe sleep apnea, often suffer from depression as well.
The unfortunate truth is that those diagnosed with depression often don’t realize they may also have undiagnosed sleep apnea, making successful treatment for their depression more difficult. Symptoms of depression have been shown to significantly improve when coexisting sleep apnea is effectively treated.
There is overwhelming consensus that an association exists between acid reflux and sleep apnea. It is believed that one of two things is happening: sleep disordered breathing results in airway pressure changes that in turn cause acid reflux, or acid reflux causes vocal cord spasms that then lead to sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnea.
Regardless of the relationship many people don’t realize that persistent acid reflux could be a sign that they need to have their sleep evaluated. Simply treating acid reflux is likely not getting to the underlying issue, which may be sleep apnea.
Morning headaches are yet another sleep apnea symptom that often gets overlooked. When you consider the mechanics of sleep apnea, it’s really no surprise that people who stop breathing and wake frequently throughout the night suffer from headaches the next morning. Combine unrestful sleep with decreased oxygen flow to the brain, and you have the perfect recipe for any number of adverse symptoms that may simply be written off as “a bad night’s sleep.”
Lack of restorative sleep has a vast range of consequences for overall health and wellness, both physically and mentally. Experts believe that it is during sleep that the brain consolidates and categorizes a day’s events and commits them to short or long-term memory. It’s no surprise, then, that memory problems, up to memory loss, are often a result of sleep apnea.
Furthermore, the reality of what is actually happening in the brain is frightening. By definition, an apnea is the cessation of breathing caused by obstruction of the airway. For sleep apnea sufferers, this means that the flow of oxygen to the brain is being reduced or completely cut off multiple times during the night. When sleep apnea is left undiagnosed or untreated, the lack of oxygen flow coupled with chronic fatigue caused by unrestful sleep could cause measurable brain damage.
Many people who suffer from sleep apnea report consistently waking up with a dry mouth. This makes sense when, in an effort to continue breathing while asleep, sleep apnea sufferers unconsciously sleep with their mouths wide open in an attempt to increase oxygen flow. Unsurprisingly, this method of breathing is likely to cause dry mouth, and even sometimes a sore throat.
The problem is that too often dry mouth is dismissed simply as “annoying” without consideration that it may be an indication of an underlying sleep problem.
If you identify with any of the above symptoms, or believe you are experiencing another symptom of sleep apnea, contact a certified sleep professional to schedule a consultation and sleep evaluation.