difficulty falling asleep

Hi Paul—

The description you give does indeed fit with symptoms of sleep apnea. If you do have apnea, I’m glad you are aware of it at such a young age. Getting treatment now will save you a lifetime of heartache.

Sleep apnea is difficulty breathing during sleep that is caused by the natural relaxation of muscle tone that occurs with sleep onset. The muscles in the neck relax, and this allows our airways to become narrow, or in some cases, to close entirely.

If our airway does get narrow or close off, it’s only a matter of time, usually 20-30 seconds (as long as we can hold our breath!), before we will be jolted awake by a big burst of adrenaline. This is the “electric shock” that you describe in your sleep report. Your brain is sending you an urgent message! Wake up, and get some air back into your lungs!

Sleep apnea is estimated to effect about 20 million Americans, though the National Sleep Foundation reports that only 1 million of these people (5%) have been diagnosed and treated.

Sleep apnea has been proven to contribute to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease, yet it still can be very hard to diagnose. The problem is that it only occurs when we are asleep! People who have sleep apnea almost always have to be told by other people that they stop breathing during sleep, or that their snoring is very loud (snoring is another sign of difficulty breathing.)

If you think you or someone you know may suffer from sleep apnea, take a moment to review this list of common symptoms. If you answer “yes” to 4 or more of the following symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment with a sleep doctor in your area, to have your sleep disorder assessed and treated. Hint: If you think you may have sleep apnea, it will help to take this test with a friend or family member—who knows your sleep habits!

Do you know the signs of Sleep Apnea?

     Non-restorative Sleep: Wake up feeling groggy, tired. Feel like you haven’t gotten enough rest.

     Moderate to loud snoring, although snoring can be mild in some patients, especially women.

     Pauses in breathing ranging from 10 to 60 seconds, sometimes longer.

     Loud snoring and “snorts” upon resumption of breathing, often accompanied by movement in the bed.
     Daytime tiredness, especially during sedentary or “hypnotic” activities such as:          

          Driving a car for longer than 30 minutes
          Working in front of a computer screen
          Sitting quietly, especially after lunch or dinner
          Reading or watching television

     Frequent arousals from sleep, especially to use the bathroom more than one time per night.

     Waking up every one to two hours during sleep for no apparent reason.

     Heartburn: Also known as Gastro-Esophogeal Reflux. Your difficulty breathing at night causes the acidic
     juices in your stomach to rise up into your throat.

     Morning headaches: You aren’t getting enough air during sleep!! The lack of oxygen can give you a
     wallop of a headache!!

     High Blood Pressure: 50% of all patients with sleep apnea have elevated blood pressure levels!

     The need to take naps during the day or on weekends.

     Lack of energy and motivation. 

     Tiredness, Tiredness, Tiredness!!

     Denial of tiredness when observed by spouse, children, friends, co-workers!!

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