Our sleep quality is influenced by many factors, the most important of which is the time we devote to it. The experts' general recommendation is to sleep 7-8 hours every night, but even if you sleep the recommended amount of time, you may still wake up tired and exhausted without understanding why. If this is the case, you may have sleep apnea, a syndrome most people suffering from it are unaware of, and in fact, about 6% of the population suffers from it, or 1 in 20 people. So how do you know whether or not you have sleep apnea? Go over the following silent signs and see if they describe you. We’ve also added a section about children so you can make sure your child doesn’t suffer from it as well.
This syndrome is a sleep disorder that is manifested by a break in the breathing process or a decrease in breathing rate during sleep. It is usually caused by obstruction of the airway, with the lax tongue and palate blocking the airway, also causing snoring. The condition is rarely caused by a nervous system problem or by a brain injury. The cessation of breathing can last from 10 to 30 seconds, which causes the person suffering from the problem to wake up in the middle of the night to catch their breath. People who suffer from sleep apnea experience restless nights, even without knowing it, and eventually wake up tired as if they didn’t sleep properly - because they truly haven’t.
If you are tired at all hours of the day, don’t just blame your busy life. "A lot of people feel tired, but don’t know why and attribute it to lack of sleep, among other things," says Dr. Boris Chernobilsky, director of sleep and airway surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City. Fatigue during the day that results from sleep apnea affects men more than women.
If your day starts with a headache, sleep apnea could be the cause. Even if you sleep seven to eight hours a night, as recommended, this syndrome prevents you from sleeping properly and wakes you up to 100 times every night, according to a study conducted at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences.
According to Dr. Chernobilsky, many patients try to find a reason for their frequent wake ups in the middle of the night thus attributing it to the need to relieve themselves. "Many people wake up in the middle of the night and don’t know why, so they’ll think maybe it’s because they need to pee." While this may be the case for you, you should still be aware: If these are frequent and many, your bladder may be fine, and the problem may be sleep apnea.
A lack of sleep can make everyone anxious, no matter what kind of ay they’re having. Frequent mood swings are the product of stress and anxiety, and may also be indirect signs of sleep apnea. In a study conducted at Harvard's Department of Sleep Medicine, people who don’t sleep enough every night often suffer from depression and mental exhaustion - all of which can be suspicious signs of sleep problems.
5. Your driving skills are worsening
“One of the biggest signs of sleep apnea is car accidents,” says Dr. Chernobilsky. In fact, a study conducted in 2015 at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that people with sleep apnea were 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a car accident. In another study conducted in the United States, there was a 70% reduction in the number of road accidents of people with sleep apnea who received medical treatment for the problem.
Hormones that regulate your sense of hunger work hard at night throughout your sleep cycle. "When you disturb the natural circadian rhythm, some hormones don’t reach their peaks or get released at all," says Dr. Chernobilsky, meaning that during the day you will feel hungrier and your body may develop insulin resistance, which means you will eventually develop diabetes.
"Impotence is a big sleep apnea sign for men. Many blame it on low testosterone or stress, but sleep apnea can be the cause," Dr. Chernobilsky says, adding that people with erectile dysfunction were twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea than those without it, and the cause of this is a problem sleep cycle patterns.
Children can also suffer from sleep apnea, and there are signs that may seem common and insignificant, but when they appear together, they can indicate that your child suffers from sleep apnea. Irritable behavior, nervousness, difficulty in concentration and decline in academic grades are symptoms of this problem, according to Dr. Chernobilsky, a study in 2015 found that the professions most affected by the syndrome were art, mathematics, and science.
As noted, all of these symptoms can occur in any child regardless of sleep apnea, but another sign that may cause you to suspect the problem is bedwetting. Dr. Chernobilsky says: "When their breathing is disturbed, oxygen levels drop, which makes them lose bladder function." If your child is already potty trained but still wetting the bed, it is recommended to take them to a doctor and discuss the possibility of sleep apnea.