Sleep apnea can be a difficult condition to diagnose, because most of its symptoms can be attributed to other unrelated problems. The following five are the ones most commonly associated with sleep apnea, but the presence of any single one may not be an indication that you have the condition. However, if multiple symptoms listed present themselves, there’s a better chance that sleep apnea could be behind them.
- Daytime Sleepiness
This is one of the most common symptoms associated with sleep apnea. Drowsiness during the day occurs because people with sleep apnea stop breathing during the night, and their brains give them a “wake-up jolt” to re-start the breathing process. Even though most people with sleep apnea aren’t consciously aware of these jolts, they can add up quickly to a night of restless sleep. While some people will only experience mild drowsiness, others may find themselves falling asleep at work, or worse—on the road.
Snoring is another common indicator of sleep apnea, but keep in mind that not all snoring stems from this condition. If snoring is punctuated by moments of silence and then begins again, there’s probably a good chance it does come from sleep apnea, though. Those are the times when breathing is cut off entirely.
When breathing is stopped during an apnea episode, this reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, which means that not as much is making it to the brain. This lack of oxygenated blood—known as hypoxemia—is believed to be the source of sleep apnea-induced headaches. They typically last a few hours after waking and are sometimes difficult to distinguish from more run-of-the-mill headaches.
- Lack of Focus
Many sufferers of sleep apnea find that they feel like they’re in a haze upon waking. They may have trouble collecting their thoughts, experience difficulty focusing on important tasks, or may just feel generally “off”. Like sleep apnea headaches, these sensations can be attributed to a lack of oxygenated blood reaching the brain during sleep.
- Sore Throat
Sleep apnea can cause sufferers to wake up each morning with a sore throat, but since it’s such a seemingly unrelated symptom, many don’t realize it’s caused by the condition. The obstruction of the airways that occurs with sleep apnea creates a vacuum effect in the esophagus, which actually has the power to draw stomach acid up into it. The acid irritates the lining of the esophagus, which becomes sensitive and inflamed, and it’s this phenomenon that results in a daily sore throat.