Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. This occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open. The body’s response to the lack of oxygen is to wake, usually without the person’s awareness, to allow the muscles in the throat to contract and open the passageway. According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic snoring is a strong indicator of sleep apnea and should be evaluated by a health professional. Since people with sleep apnea tend to be sleep deprived, they may suffer from a wide range of other symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory difficulties, and falling asleep while at work, on the phone, or driving. Left untreated, symptoms of sleep apnea can include high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke or depression. While overweight, middle-aged men are at a greater risk for developing sleep apnea, this condition may also be caused by enlarged tonsils, posterior displaced jaws, or masses in the throat.
- Awakening frequently with a headache and/or dry mouth
- Daytime sleepiness and trouble concentrating
- Sexual dysfunction
- Awakening during the night and choking or gasping for air
If lack of sleep is affecting your life, you may benefit from a diagnostic sleep study. Consult your physician, or call to make an appointment with the UMMC North Sleep Center for diagnostic and treatment options (832) 912-3700.