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7 Signs of Sleep Apnea

The sleep disorder can easily go unnoticed. Here's what to watch for

#3: You’re exhausted all day

Despite the fact that fragmented nighttime sleep leads to chronic fatigue, daytime sleepiness is one of the most ignored signs of sleep apnea. “There are likely people out there who have had untreated sleep apnea for so long that they have gotten used to being sleep deprived,” says Edward Grandi, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association.

Excessive daytime sleepiness is a frequently ignored sign of the condition, Grandi adds, so if you’re spending seven to nine hours in bed per night and still feel sleepy during the day, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.

#4: You have high blood pressure

Sleep apnea is linked to hypertension. According to Grandi, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode when you stop breathing and it causes your blood pressure to spike.  “This happens over and over throughout the night,” he says. “Eventually, your blood pressure doesn’t dip anymore, it stays elevated, putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease.”

#5: You go to the bathroom often during the night

Frequent nighttime urination, called nocturia, affects nearly 65 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 84, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation. While nocturia could be linked to aging, it’s also a classic sign of sleep apnea (the fight or flight response triggers a feeling of fullness in the bladder, according to Twery). The possibility of sleep apnea should be considered if you routinely wake up to use the bathroom during the night.

#6: You wake up with a headache

Sleep apnea sufferers may complain of morning headaches. The reason: frequent pauses in breathing during the night decrease the oxygen levels in the brain, causing pain. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that headaches were more frequent and lasted longer as sleep apnea became more severe.

#7: You’re overweight or obese

Up to 67 percent of people diagnosed with sleep apnea are overweight (with a BMI over 25), according to Kushida. As your weight increases, the fat pads that surround your airway also get larger, narrowing the opening and making it more difficult to breathe. “Losing weight most likely won’t make the condition go away but it can improve it,” says Kushida.

Also of interest: Experimental cooling caps may help treat insomnia.

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