What Does Sleep Apnea Feel Like?

Understanding What Sleep Apnea Feels Like

Sleep Apnea can feel like waking up after a long night’s sleep and still feeling tired, experiencing daytime fatigue, and having difficulty concentrating. It’s also often associated with a hoarse voice, dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, frequent awakenings at night, restless sleep, and gasping for air or choking episodes. This sleep-related disorder often results in low quality of life, low productivity, and even an increased risk of accidents.

Digging Deeper into Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a pretty common yet serious sleep disorder. It occurs when a person’s breathing is intermittently interrupted during sleep. Individuals with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing frequently during their sleep cycle, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. In most of the situations, this results in low oxygen levels in the body, causing damage in the long run.

Categories of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is composed of three categories, namely obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common category and it occurs when throat muscles relax, causing physical blockage of the airway. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, involves the brain failing to send appropriate signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Lastly, complex sleep apnea syndrome is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. This is a complex condition also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, which presents a challenging treatment approach.

The Subjective Feel of Sleep Apnea

Upon Waking

One of the most common feelings associated with sleep apnea is waking up tired, even after a full night’s sleep. This is because your body spends energy in an attempt to clear up the blocked airways, which leads to unrestful and fragmented sleep.

Daytime Habits

Individuals with sleep apnea may also struggle with staying awake during the day, even when engaged in activities like reading or watching television. This can result in memory problems, mood changes, poor attention span, reduced work productivity and even difficulty with relationships.

Nocturnal Symptoms

At night while sleeping, the person may experience restless sleep, heavy snoring interspersed with moments of silence followed by gasps for air.

The Objective Signs of Sleep Apnea

Noticeable Symptoms

While the individual suffering from sleep apnea might not realize all their symptoms, their partner or family members may notice habitual snoring, episodes during which they stop breathing, abrupt awakenings accompanied by choking or gasping. Other parts of the body may be additionally impacted, including waking up with a dry mouth, morning headache, or experiencing difficulty staying asleep.

Medical Diagnosis

Definitively diagnosing sleep apnea usually involves a sleep study or polysomnogram administered by a sleep specialist. This study is designed to record and monitor your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Overall Health

The intermittent oxygen deprivation and low quality of sleep that come with sleep apnea can lead to several health complications. This can include high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and even complications with medications and surgery.

Decreased Quality of Life

Sleep apnea can have tremendous impacts on your daily quality of life. It hampers emotional stability, causes extreme daytime fatigue which hampers productivity and can even lead to complications like depression.

Life-threatening Complications

In severe cases, sleep apnea can lead to life-threatening health complications such as heart disease and stroke. People with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of sudden cardiac death, primarily because of the strain incurred by the heart due to low oxygen levels and elevated blood pressure.

Finishing Thoughts

Understanding what sleep apnea feels like is the first step to recognizing and addressing this common yet potentially dangerous sleep disorder. It is characterized by a variety of symptoms ranging from nocturnal snoring and gasping to daytime fatigue and concentration difficulty that can greatly impact everyday life. If you suspect you or a loved one might be suffering from sleep apnea, it’s crucial to seek medical help and get a sleep study for proper diagnosis and treatment. With the right intervention, it’s possible to manage sleep apnea effectively and restore a healthy, restful night’s sleep.


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