Loud snoring isn’t the only symptom of sleep apnoea
By Alyssa Jung
If you notice any of the following less obvious sleep apnoea symptoms, talk to your doctor.
1. You’re sleepy all day
If you’re tired 24/7, don’t just chalk it up to a busy life.
“A lot of people feel tired, but don’t know why and attribute it to lack of sleep, among other things,” says Boris Chernobilsky, MD, director of sleep and airway surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City.
Daytime sleepiness is one of the most common sleep apnoea symptoms, but men with sleep apnoea tend to report daytime sleepiness more often than women, says Dr. Chernobilsky.
Both obstructive sleep apnoea (muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the airway) and central sleep apnoea (the brain fails to signal your body to breathe) lead to disrupted sleep.
Patients wake up frequently throughout the night but they don’t always remember it. They just feel sleepy all day.
“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,” says Dr. Chernobilsky.
Though that may sometimes be the case, many patients are just searching for the reason they’re awake and don’t actually have the urge to go, he says.
While the term ‘overactive bladder’ may be used to avoid the awkwardness surrounding incontinence, the reality is up to 25 percent of women and 5 percent of men under 65 – more among the elderly – experience a type of urinary incontinence at some point.
Lack of sleep may be the reason for your newfound irritability, not the fact that you have a case of the Mondays.
Changes in mood, as well as increased stress and anxiety, can be one of many sleep apnoea symptoms; studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep report feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Finding yourself becoming more moody and irritable lately? Wondering if your neuroses, phobias and eccentricities are normal? Never fear; you’re in good company, according to our panel of experts.
5. Your driving is getting worse
“One of the biggest signs of sleep apnoea is car accidents,” says Dr. Chernobilsky.
In fact, a 2015 study in the journal Sleep found that people with sleep apnoea were 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a car crash than people without the disorder.
Researchers said in a news release that extreme daytime sleepiness and getting less than five hours of shut-eye were to blame for the dangerous distracted driving.
In the same study, car accidents were reduced by 70 percent among sleep apnoea participants who used the common treatment of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy at night.
And behavioural issues such as misbehaving at school, a poor attention span, and a drop in grades might be sleep apnoea symptoms, says Dr. Chernobilsky.
“Sleep apnoea in kids can present as hyper, irritable, or falling sleep in class, and some parents get a misdiagnosis of attention deficit disorder [ADD],” he says.
A 2015 review of 16 studies related to sleep apnoea in children, published in Pediatrics, found that those with sleep apnoea performed worse on language arts, math, and science tests compared to those without.