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13 Sleep Apnea Symptoms In Adults And Children, Men And Women

We all know the feeling of not getting enough sleep. Fatigue and daytime drowsiness, plus the feeling of just not being able to focus or concentrate. A night of tossing and turning happens to the best of us, but what if it happens all the time for no apparent reason? Poor sleep can be a side effect of chronic pain or stress, but what if those aren’t a part of your life? If you are routinely waking up tired, even after what should have been a good night of sleep, you may be suffering from sleep apnea symptoms.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that usually affects adults. The two common types are obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your airway is blocked during sleep by the relaxed muscle of the tongue (or enlarged adenoids and tonsils in children).

Central sleep apnea, a less common form of this condition, occurs when your central nervous system essentially forgets to breathe. An estimated 25 million people in the U.S. suffer from one or another of these forms (with a rare few having a combination of the two).

Do I have sleep apnea?

Two early warning signs of sleep apnea are snoring and a regular, noticeable pause in breathing during the night. While many people snore when they sleep on their back, sleep apnea sufferers may snore no matter their position. Likewise, a regular pause in breathing is normal, but not one that is followed by a gasping, choking breath of air.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma or other respiratory issues
  • High blood pressure

If you have any of these risk factors as well as the two above warning signs of sleep apnea, it’s a good time to head to the doctor.

9 sleep apnea symptoms in adults

Some sleep apnea symptoms may not be noticeable to the sleep apnea sufferer, but are what sends them to the doctor in the first place. These nine sleep apnea symptoms start with the symptoms your partner likely notices first.

1. Snoring

For some couples, snoring is enough of a nuisance that separate bedrooms are the only answer for a good night’s sleep.

Trouble is, as noted above, this is one of the first signs of sleep apnea.

2. Noticeable cessation of breath followed by a choking intake of air

The other major first sign of sleep apnea is a particular breathing pattern. It is normal and natural for a relaxed sleeper to pause between an exhale and an inhale.

However, those with sleep apnea may stop breathing altogether, five to ten times an hour, every hour, for an entire night’s sleep, before taking a startled breath in. The sleeper will most likely not wake during this breath in and will also not remember it happening.

3. Daytime fatigue and excessive sleepiness

Daytime fatigue that gets worse as the day progresses and is unrelieved by napping or another night of sleep is a common sleep apnea symptom.

4. Fogginess and difficulty concentrating

With fatigue comes challenges to mental focus and clarity.

Sleep apnea sufferers may struggle with even the simplest of cognitive tasks.

5. Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening

Because most sleep apnea sufferers breathe through their mouths, they may wake with an irritated throat and dry mouth.

A brief period of open-mouthed breathing may not cause this, but a full eight hours surely will.

6. Morning headache

Open-mouth breathing means more loss of moisture in the body.

A morning headache caused by overnight dehydration is common among those with sleep apnea.

7. Loss of sexual drive

As you might imagine, fogginess, fatigue, and irritability don’t do much for a person’s sex drive.

The physiological changes that occur (including high blood pressure) may also work against the sleep apnea sufferer.

8. Nighttime sweating

Women experiencing menopause are familiar with night sweats, but this particular sleep apnea symptom can occur in any person of any gender at any age.

9. High blood pressure

High blood pressure may be either a cause or a result of sleep apnea. Either way, those with high blood pressure are more likely to suffer from disordered breathing patterns.

Sleep apnea symptoms in men vs women

Men suffer from sleep apnea at an estimated nearly three times the rate: 24% of men to just 9% of women. These are the numbers that are diagnosed, so the real numbers may be much higher.

It may be that women with sleep apnea present slightly different symptoms (e.g., more subtle breathing disorders, insomnia, or restless legs) that are not as noted by their partners.

4 additional sleep apnea symptoms in children

Johns Hopkins Medicine has found that 10 to 20% of children who snore may have sleep apnea. Overall, an estimated 3% of children have sleep apnea.

In addition to snoring and pauses in breath (with a gasping inhale), children can have other sleep apnea symptoms. In a chicken-and-egg conundrum, one study of children with behavioral issues such as ADHD and poor attention span found that these children were up to six times more likely to have sleep apnea. It is unclear whether the sleep apnea is the cause or the result of these behavioral issues.

Additional sleep apnea symptoms in children may also include:

  • Bedwetting (even after being potty trained)
  • Poor school performance
  • Slow growth (failure to thrive)
  • Poor oral hygiene (due to open-mouth breathing)

In adolescents and teenagers aged 12 to 18, the main risk factor is obesity, but for all ages enlarged adenoids or tonsils seem to be the main cause of obstructive sleep apnea.

Get help

Chronic sleep deprivation isn’t just about being a little out of it during the day. Untreated sleep apnea can have serious health consequences, including:

Those with sleep apnea are twice as likely to cause an accident and more likely to die prematurely. It’s a serious health issue but one with promising treatment options.

The sleep apnea dentists at AZ Sleep, with convenient locations in Scottsdale and all over the Valley, can help. Get in touch today for a full evaluation!

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