Parents and partners are often the ones who notice the dramatic symptoms associated with sleep apnea first. The most obnoxious symptom associated with the sleep disorder is loud, pronounced snoring interspersed with gasping for air. When the throat collapses during an episode, the body will go without air for a second or two until it rouses and forces the throat open to breath. This gasping sound increases the level of snoring. Illness, such as a head cold or flu, can increase the frequency of episodes. A person may suffer from dozens of episodes a night, but only remember waking once or twice, even though their natural sleep patterns and rhythms are disturbed.
Upon waking in the morning, a person with sleep apnea will often feel tired and disoriented. They will have a headache and a sore throat. It may take them longer than usual to get started on their day and the feeling of drowsiness will persist through the daylight hours. This happens because the body goes through five stages of sleep. The body needs those five different stages, but sleep apnea episodes will reduce their duration, preventing the deeper stages of sleep because of constant arousal to breathe.
A person with sleep apnea never gets a solid night’s rest and will begin to show symptoms of sleep deprivation. In some cases, where the apnea goes untreated for years at a time, the constant sleep deprivation can impair job performance, social interactions, weight loss efforts and more. While sleep apnea can be treated, knowing whether the problem is physical (obstructive) or neurological (central) or a combination (mixed) can help a physician diagnose and treat the root causes as well as the actual apnea.
If you or someone you care about suspect that you are suffering from sleep apnea, you should see your physician for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.