Sleep Apnea Triggers and Warning Signs

If you’ve lost count of how often you have suffered from sleepless nights, interrupted sleep, or poor-quality sleep, then you’re certainly not alone.

Some of the common symptoms of sleep disorders include: lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, memory loss and forgetfulness, diminished productivity and performance at work or school, depression, lack of energy, mood disturbances (e.g. irritability, anger, impulsive actions, etc.), irregular breathing, fatigued driving, and an overall diminished quality of life.

Common Sleep Disorders

Based on Dr. Avi Weisfogel, the creator and owner of the International Academy of Sleep (IAOS), there are over 70 recognized forms of sleep disorders, and among the most common are sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome, respectively.

Insomnia

About 10 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic insomnia, which is a debilitating condition that is characterized by: difficulty falling asleep at night, frequently waking up in the middle of the night and with problems falling back asleep, and routinely waking up significantly earlier than planned or desired. Generally, chronic insomnia refers to situations where insomnia continues for at least three weeks, and acute insomnia refers to shorter durations. Dr. Avi Weisfogel notes that many men and women switch between bouts of acute and chronic insomnia. He also adds that the condition may temporarily relieve for weeks or months at a stretch before returning.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea (formally called obstructive sleep apnea or OSA) affects about 20 million people in the U.S. However, Dr. Avi Weisfogel notes that as many as 90 percent of these individuals are living with undiagnosed and therefore untreated sleep apnea, either because they do not know that they have this debilitating and potentially fatal condition, or they don’t realize it is a serious problem that needs to be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in the throat relax during sleep and block the upper respiratory system. A partial blockage typically causes snoring, while a complete blockage causes somebody to stop breathing for several seconds during the evening. This forced the mind to awaken and triggers violent gasping and hacking, to be able to clear the airway and allow oxygen to get into the lungs.

As noted above, many men and women who undergo this process on a regular basis — and it may happen several times a night — are unaware that it is happening. Therefore, upon awakening they generally feel exhausted and irritable, but do not know why (or they attribute it to the wrong root cause, such as something they ate or an argument, they had the night before). In addition, the burden placed on the respiratory system puts a strain on the heart, which can lead to heart attack, heart arrhythmia, heart failure, and other serious and potentially fatal cardiological problems.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common neurological disorder that compels individuals to constantly move their legs, feet, and possibly other body parts during sleep. The compulsion is triggered by sensations like itching, aching, burning, throbbing and pulsing. Understandably, the continuous need to shift position wreak havoc on sleep quality. Just like sleep apnea, lots of people who suffer from restless leg syndrome are unaware that they have a clinical condition for which treatment and medications are available. Dietary and lifestyle changes may also alleviate or eliminate symptoms.

Finding Help

If you know or believe that you’re suffering from one of them or any other sleep disorders, then talk to your primary care doctor. A growing number of dentists are also offering their patients sleep apnea evaluations. Adds Dr. Avi Weisfogel: it’s a mistake for people to assume that sleep disorders correct themselves over time, or that poor excellent sleep is something which they must learn how to live together and accept. Neither of these are true. The problem is serious, and help can be found.