Maybe someone has told you your snore is deafening, or you've woken up on more than your fair share of mornings feeling less than refreshed. In those instances, it's probably pretty obvious something's up with your sleep.
But in the case of sleep apnea, a disorder wherein people stop breathing while asleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night, pinpointing the problem can be significantly trickier. These brief periods of breathing cessation don't trigger full alertness, but disrupt sleep enough to leave sufferers groggy in the mornings -- and at risk for a number of more serious health problems, often without even realizing there's a problem.
People with undiagnosed sleep apnea -- which may affect more than 20 million adults, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association -- may go on to develop diabetes or depression, and face an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, among other concerns.
Men over the age of 40 are at an increased risk for sleep apnea. Being overweight also increases your likelihood of developing the condition, as can a family history of the disease, having a large tongue or neck and having allergies, sinus problems or any nasal obstruction, according to WebMD.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to treat sleep apnea, including simple lifestyle measures like losing weight and avoiding alcohol. But all too often a sleep apnea diagnosis is hard to come by. There's no "test" for sleep apnea, and it's not often evident at a doctor's appointment, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. A family member or bed partner is often first to notice the signs, usually snoring or brief periods of no breathing.
But don't leave your health entirely in the hands of the people sleeping around you. Today, in honor of Sleep Apnea Awareness Day, take a moment to familiarize yourself with these more surprising signs that you could have sleep apnea.
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