man and woman lie next to each other in bed woman awake with right hand on forehead because man on his left side sleeping may be snoring


Five signs you may have sleep apnea

One of the best things you can do for your health is get a good night's rest. But if you have a condition like obstructive sleep apnea, getting good sleep is almost impossible. Here are some signs that you should discuss this type of sleep apnea with your primary health care provider—a virtual visit is an effective, convenient way to get started.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. In obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open. This reduces or completely blocks airflow, sometimes for 10 seconds at a time or more.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

  1. You snore
    Snoring occurs when the muscles in the mouth and throat relax, causing the tissues to vibrate with each breath. While almost everyone with obstructive sleep apnea snores, not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea. But if you do snore, and if you are an especially heavy snorer, mention it to your primary care provider. He or she can help you determine if a sleep evaluation might be the next step.
  2. You wake up feeling tired or are often sleepy during the day
    Obstructive sleep apnea can mean you wake up dozens or even hundreds of times during the night to breathe. Poor sleep quality makes it impossible to function at your best during the day, and it may even contribute to making mistakes at work, impaired judgment and accidents.  
  3. You have morning headaches
    When you stop breathing repeatedly during the night, you are not taking in enough oxygen. Carbon dioxide builds up in your brain and blood flow to your brain and other organs is reduced. This contributes to headaches and can lead to more serious health problems.
  4. You have a dry mouth or sore throat
    All of that gasping for air dries your throat tissues and can give you a morning sore throat along with your morning headache.
  5. Your partner notices that you snort and gasp while sleeping
    Snorting, gasping and shallow breathing are classic signs of obstructive sleep apnea. When your airway is partially or completely blocked, you wake up for a few seconds to gasp for air.  Many cases of obstructive sleep apnea are first suspected by a weary partner who observes this pattern night after night.

Causes of sleep apnea

Multiple factors can contribute to sleep apnea. For example, the condition may result from your unique physical structure, such as having a narrow airway, a large tongue or a large neck size. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, alcohol use and being more than 50 years old.

Treatment for sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and other health problems, so it's important to talk to your health care provider if you notice these signs. Schedule a virtual visit with your primary care provider to take the first step in diagnosing this common condition. From there, a variety of treatment options are available that can help you sleep better while reducing the risks to your overall health.


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