If you’re anything like me, you need your sleep. When something gets in the way of us getting that restful slumber, it can throw off our whole day, week, and worst of all, mood. There are many disturbances that inhibit us from getting the rest we need and want, such as stress, the overall sleep environment, our kids, and in some cases, a more serious condition.
Sleep apnea is one of them, yet not everyone is aware they, or their bed partner, have it. They just think their partner is an awful snoring monster and it usually is joked about during conversations with friends when the topic comes up.
My grandfather had sleep apnea for over 20 years before he got it diagnosed and treated. My brother and I would laugh about him snoring so bad when we would go on camping trips with him. It is not a laughing matter now.
It, ultimately, was the reason for cutting his life way shorter than it should have been due to congested heart failure that the doctor said was a result of many years of untreated sleep apnea. Therefore, by the time he got treatment, the damage had already been done.
Sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, affects around 26% of adults ages 30-70. That’s a lot of people! What’s also quite interesting, men are almost 8 times as likely to be diagnosed with it than women. So, what’s up with that? Let’s take a deeper look at sleep apnea, why more men are struggling with it, and what the heck to do if you think you have it.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder. It occurs when your breathing is continually interrupted while sleeping, sometimes even hundreds of times per night.
Your breathing can pause for over ten seconds at a time, and often, folks don’t even know this is happening. Yikes. Society teaches us that waking up in the night, chronic restlessness, and then waking up tired are all normal.
After sleeping at night, we should actually be waking up refreshed and ready for the day ahead. If you’re not – perhaps your body is jerking around at night and waking up quickly without you even knowing it.
It is fairly common for people to only go see their doctor or a sleep specialist after their partner has told them about their sleeping behaviors at night. So, the next time your partner tells you that you tossed and turned again, snored, and in turn woke them up all night… you should pay close attention. They could be giving you some valuable information that you were not aware of previously.
1. Why Men?
Research shows that men are unfortunately much more likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnea than women. Though, the jury is still out on whether or not the data is slightly skewed.
It is believed that men may have more intense symptoms than women do, such as very loud snoring. The thought is that women may be less likely to report this symptom, or it shows up in a more subdued fashion (ladylike snores).
This may explain the potential that less cases are caught in women than men. Other factors that attribute to more men dealing with sleep apnea include differences in the length of the upper airway, arousal response, hormone levels, and the way fat is distributed throughout the body. Some of these things are certainly out of your control.
The good news? There are lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, or a handy CPAP mask that can help you gain some precious Z’s back.
2. Sleep apnea, incognito…
Sleep apnea can be tricky to pinpoint, which is why this sleep disorder goes undiagnosed in so many people, both men and women. Its symptoms are broad and can appear similar to other issues, such as mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
If you’re feeling cranky, irritable, and upset, remember that lack of sleep could be part of the equation! Not sleeping well certainly affects our emotions and the way we interact with others. Don’t let sleep apnea disguise itself as a behavioral health concern. If, and when, your sleeping improves, those other symptoms may also fade away.
3. Uh oh…what if I have this?
Sleep apnea can result in the brain, and the rest of your body, not getting the oxygen it needs overnight to properly function. It’s so important you get the rest you need.
If you think you or whoever you share your bed with may be suffering, start a log and record fatigue levels through the day as well as other persistent symptoms.
Here is an awesome tool for keeping a sleep diary for two weeks from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
This will come in handy when you visit with your doctor. Best practice for figuring out next steps is a sleep study. This isn’t your average slumber party. You will head to a sleep center and stay overnight while your eye movement, oxygen levels, heart rate, and many other factors are all monitored and analyzed. Pretty cool, huh? This is the most common way to diagnose the disorder and help you start on the road to sweet dreams.
4. Symptoms of Sleep Apnia to Watch Out For
Some common symptoms to watch out for:
- chronic snoring
- trouble concentrating
- waking up tired
- dry mouth and throat
- sexual dysfunction.
- If you are experiencing any or all of these concerns, please talk to your doctor.
5. Lifestyle Changes to Reverse Breathing Difficulty
Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and sleeping on your side vs. your back can help.
A CPAP machine is also a game changer. It is, by far, the best immediate therapy out there to help you reclaim your rest. The mask fits over your nose and mouth, promoting proper airflow during sleep. These strategies and others from your doctor or sleep specialist will improve your sleep and in turn, improve your life.
Aaron Stevenson is a sleep enthusiast who could probably get more sleep if he was not writing about it all the time. He is the blog owner at Snoozeez.com.