Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the three types of sleep apnea that affect over 18 million Americans. During OSA, you stop breathing due to an obstructed airway. This wakes your body up, often gasping for air, before you fall back asleep and the process begins all over again. You may or may not be aware of these episodes. What are the signs that you should be evaluated by a sleep specialist for OSA?
Snoring or Difficulty Breathing
Snoring is one of the most common signs of OSA. This symptom combined with difficulty breathing through your nose (which can often create the snoring that comes with mouth breathing during sleep) are signs that you need to be evaluated for sleep apnea. This includes if you have sinus trouble or trouble breathing through your nose as a result of allergies.
Headaches and Fatigue
If you have headaches upon waking, this could be a sign that your body isn’t getting the proper amount of oxygen while sleeping due to obstructed breathing. Fatigue during the day may indicate that you aren’t getting the proper rest you need because of constant waking during the night to resume normal breathing. See your doctor—you may have OSA!
Obesity and Large Neck Circumference
If you’re obese and have a large neck, the size and mass of your neck could be contributing to obstructive sleep apnea. This is because the muscles that help control your airway may collapse during sleep, leading to an inability to breathe. Obesity is a risk factor for OSA and combined with other symptoms such as snoring and fatigue, could indicate OSA.
Being Restless, Irritable, and Unfocused
Not being able to sleep properly can make you restless at night. If you have trouble sleeping, an obstructed airway could be preventing you from getting a proper night’s rest. This may lead you to be irritable and unfocused the next day, especially as the problem continues over time. You may not be able to concentrate or have trouble regulating your moods. Your doctor can refer you to a sleep specialist to see if OSA could be the culprit behind your symptoms.
Jaw Pain or Acid Reflux
Did you know that having temporomandibular joint disorder (often referred to as TMJ or TMD) can influence whether or not you have OSA? This is because your jaw determines the position of your tongue in the mouth. When your jaw is misaligned, your airway can easily become obstructed by improper tongue placement during sleep.
There may also be a link between acid reflux and sleep apnea, although the connection isn’t clear yet—some researchers speculate that acid reflux may cause the muscles that control the airway to spasm during sleep, therefore resulting in breathing problems.
Having a Family History of OSA
Always know your family’s medical history—a family history of OSA or another type of sleep apnea is a risk factor in whether or not you will develop sleep apnea!
Obstructive sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder that can increase your risk for chronic diseases and even premature death. Get evaluated by a physician for sleep apnea if you have any of the above signs—a simple oral sleep appliance can help keep your airway open during sleep and result in a proper night’s rest and better health!