Understanding sleep apnea and its 7 symptoms

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that can affect both men and women, regardless of age. It can also lead to other health issues, including diabetes, hypertension or arrhythmia.

Sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (SAHS) is characterized by a complete stoppage (apnea) or a reduction (hypopnea) of the respiratory flow for at least 10 seconds. This disorder is considered very disabling and can lead to many health problems.

Did you know that sleep apnea is almost as common as asthma? Nearly 26% of Canadians aged 18 and older are at a high risk of suffering from sleep apnea. Moreover, it is estimated that approximately 85% of the people who suffer from it remain undiagnosed.


The different types of sleep apnea

There are 3 types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: partial or complete blockage of the airways during sleep;
  • Central sleep apnea: a less common type of sleep apnea that occurs when you stop breathing for several seconds, even with your airways clear; there is a stoppage of breathing because there is no respiratory effort. In fact, the breathing command at the cerebral level is not triggered.
  • Mixed sleep apnea (mixed): this is a combination of the two types of apnea, central sleep apnea, followed by obstructive sleep apnea. This occurs when the brain forgets to signal you to breathe, and then your airways get blocked when you try to breathe.

Regardless of the type of sleep apnea, there are a number of signs to look for. The combination of several of these symptoms, and not each of them taken separately, is an indicator of the presence of sleep apnea syndrome. It is important to consult a doctor if you think you may be suffering from sleep disorders.

Below are the major symptoms of sleep apnea.


1. Poor quality sleep

Sleep apnea affects the quality of sleep when left untreated. Indeed, since apnea makes you stop breathing for several seconds, often several times throughout the night, your body never gets the rest it needs. This phenomenon can lead to a series of brief awakenings that prevent normal sleep cycles. As a result, even if you sleep for 8 hours, you will feel that you have not rested enough.

In the long term, this fragmented sleep can lead to chronic fatigue and various sleep disorders.


2. Changing and irritable mood

Sleep apnea can affect your mood. You’ve probably already felt more irritable after a poor night’s sleep, so imagine when it becomes a chronic disorder!

Cumulative sleep deprivation means that you are less able to manage stress and are at greater risk of developing anxiety.


3. Loss of concentration

Because you sleep less well, your brain does not function as well.

Result: you have problems concentrating and you are less able to retain the information you receive on a daily basis. Your alertness and judgment also tend to decline.


4. A sensation of shortness of breath upon waking up

This condition is caused by obstructive sleep apnea. In more severe cases, it may happen that you wake up with a start, with the feeling that you have been suffocated.

It is important to consult a medical professional if you have reached this stage. Below is the procedure to follow to obtain the best diagnosis:

  • Schedule an appointment with your family doctor;
  • Take a medical screening test with a pulmonologist. If applicable, the doctor will diagnose sleep apnea;
  • Seek advice from a Médicus respiratory therapist about the type of sleep apnea product you should use (if you have obtained a prescription for a device).

Some of the devices available on the market include:

  • CPAP devices (CPAP): these devices allow airways to remain open during the sleep cycle;
  • Masks and other accessories: they are designed to meet the needs and preferences of everyone — that’s why there are 3 distinct lines of mask design:
    1. Nasal pillow mask: this mask penetrates the nostrils (examples: ResMed – Air Fit P10, Air Fit P10 for women);
    2. Nasal mask: this mask covers the nose without obstructing the nostrils (example: Fisher and Paykel – Eson 2),
    3. Full-face mask: this mask fully covers the nose and mouth (example: ResMed – Air Fit F20).


5. Decrease in libido

The excessive fatigue caused by untreated sleep apnea can lead to erectile problems and decreased libido.


6. Headaches

Morning headaches are frequent consequences of untreated sleep apnea.


7. Daytime sleepiness

All this fatigue accumulated over time due to sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness. Your eyelids become heavy, your head leans forward and, in extreme cases, you begin to snore without realizing it.

This is a very annoying situation on a daily basis: imagine if it happened during an important meeting! But don’t wait for the problem to escalate.


Médicus: respiratory therapists who care

The management of the treatment of sleep apnea syndrome is of the utmost importance.

Médicus offers the services of a full team of respiratory therapists. They offer a comprehensive care approach:

  • Sound advice and follow-up;
  • Therapeutic trials;
  • Sale and rental of equipment and accessories.

Médicus offers many high-quality medical devices and accessories. Our respiratory therapists will provide advice and help you make the best choice.

Got questions?

Contact our respiratory therapists.