Sleep apnea is a condition that we are only starting to find out about, but it still remains a difficult condition to diagnose in yourself – all because it occurs when you are asleep. However, once you notice certain signs, it begins to become apparent that you have the condition, though there are signs you might not know of, yet they accompany it.
What makes it slightly more challenging is because not all people with the condition will experience it in the same way, even when using a puffy mattress to sleep. Since it is very individualized, it is easy to recognize that other symptoms may appear and indicate there is a problem. Here are some of those surprising ways.
Grinding your teeth
When you grind or clench your teeth at night, it may be a sign you have the condition . This is also referred to as bruxism, and it is very common in people with the condition – in fact, it affects up to 10 percent of sufferers.
In some people it happens subconsciously, since the body wants to tighten the muscles in the airway in order to stop the jaw from moving backwards. This will prevent the tongue, which is directly attached to the lower jaw, from moving backwards and blocking the airway.
The combination of all these means that the collapsing of the airway is stopped, leading to fewer frequency of secondary awakenings due to apnea. However, the constant grinding of teeth will result in the erosion of the enamel, headaches when one wakes up, and TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) issues.
It is not surprising to realize that when you are constantly waking up because of breathing issues, you will wake up in the morning feeling less than your best. No matter how long you sleep, the sleep quality is poor, and this leads to sleep deprivation due to fragmentation.
This also results in you experiencing excessive levels of daytime sleepiness, making it easy for you to take naps that are also really long. In addition, a person with the condition will find it very easy to fall asleep at night, usually dozing off within minutes or seconds. This may seem harmless, but it is very dangerous, especially if you end up falling asleep while doing an activity such as driving.
When one experiences heartburn or acid reflux while they are sleeping, this is a major sign of apnea. This also reveals itself in form of GERD, or gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
The symptom occurs due to the lower esophageal sphincter failing to close appropriately, causing the contents of the stomach to enter the esophagus (the tube that starts from your throat to the stomach), including stomach acid. As the sphincter weakens, the tube cannot close completely, and the contents of the stomach lead to heartburn .
The collapse when apnea occurs can be a major reason for this, since it creates adverse strain that sucks up the substances in your stomach and pushes them up the esophageal tube, also leading to choking or coughing during sleep.
This is among the strange signs of apnea, and sometimes sleep talking is another sign (also called somniloquy). Watch out for other behaviors such as sleep eating, and other strange movements.
For instance, periodic limb movements might suggest that the body is trying to resume proper breathing, although this will disappear as you receive treatment.
As for behaviors that are more complex, they might happen when your conscious state gets fractured, such that the states of wakefulness and sleep occur at the same time within the brain. The result of this mix-up is that the part that controls movement and is supposed to be asleep is active, while the part that controls consciousness and memory that is supposed to be active is asleep. When this happens, you can get up and leave your room or even your house without recalling what happened.
Drooling and dry mouth
There are two findings that contradict each other, but they both suggest sleep apnea – drooling and dry mouth. The dry mouth happens when the nasal passage is blocked and forces you to breathe through your mouth, something that you experience when you have a cold, when you have an allergic reaction, or when you have a deviated nasal septum.
When you breathe through the mouth as you sleep, it often leads to loud snores, and it can also be the cause of the airway collapsing during sleep.
On the other hand, drooling can also suggest the same reason, all because the mouth is open during sleep as saliva drips from the corners of the mouth.
Unexpected gain in weight
The reason why proper sleep is essential to losing weight is because your body can metabolize food more efficiently and you learn to control your eating. If you are struggling to explain sudden weight gains despite your efforts to exercise and diet, it could be due to apnea.
The brain produces certain hormones that control the metabolism of your body and regulating hunger, so when you do not sleep properly, these hormones fail to reach their peak levels. That also means that you will struggle with hunger issues during the day, making your body more resistant to insulin.
Uncontrollable high blood pressure
The condition can be a major contributor to high blood pressure, also called hypertension – which can lead to other conditions such as a stroke or heart attack.
The repetitive episodes of disruptions in breathing leads to reduction in blood oxygen levels, as well as sudden increases and stops in the heart rate and increasing blood pressure. The inflammation eventually affects the entire body, so the problem should be dealt with as soon as possible if blood pressure medication does not solve the problem.
Sleep apnea is a problem that needs to be dealt with, but you cannot know it is happening unless you examine the signs carefully. Some of the signs are not expected, but they can be indicators of the condition.