- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
How to Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea
Can you tell the signs of sleep apnea? I couldn't and this is my experience.
I went to a neurologist a few years ago for issues with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I took a nerve test at one point and during the visit the doctor asked me other questions like “Do you snore?” “What is your neck size?” “Do you have high blood pressure?” My answers seemed to satisfy his curiosity. Yet I thought to myself, What does any of this have to do with my arms and hands?
He told me that he suspected I had sleep apnea and that I should have a sleep study performed. I left his office that day troubled by both the nerve test—three needles stuck straight into my forearm, a tricep, and neck—ouch!—and this man’s crazy advice.
I was sure there was no apnea—period.
Effects of Sleep Apnea
A year later, however, I began to notice that my sleep was no longer restful. In fact, it had become its own nightmare. I woke up throughout the night, sometimes gasping for air; and when I finally awoke in the morning, I often had pounding, daylong headaches, fatigue, and lack of concentration. At work I would yawn constantly. Sitting at my desk I would know what work needed to be done but found myself completely incapable of mentally processing the task.
Something was seriously wrong with me: I couldn’t sleep at night or stay awake in the day. And that is when the doctor popped back in my mind.
I had the sleep study done. It revealed that I stopped breathing about 200 times a night with the longest “event” being about twelve seconds. My blood oxygen level also decreased. It was indeed a moderate sleep apnea.
Do you know anyone with sleep apnea or its symptoms?
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs for different reasons, like deformities in the nasal passageways to being overweight. (Let me emphasize that apnea is not necessarily resultant of being overweight, but weight and smoking may contribute to the condition.) And everyone—from babies to the elderly—can have apnea.
Thankfully, my apnea isn’t bad. The nurse told me of patients who stop breathing for nearly four minutes an episode, which is unbelievable to me. I have used a CPAP machine since discovering my condition, and my sleep and cognitive functions have become normal again.
Take it from me: If you are told that you snore badly or others wake you because of it; or if you are told that you stop breathing while sleeping; or if you notice some of the symptoms I’ve spoken of, I encourage you to help yourself by having a sleep study done. Catch it early because it can lead to other health issues. Your sleep really is everything. Learn to tell the symptoms of sleep apnea for yourself and your loved ones.