Are you sluggish during the day because you’re not getting enough rest throughout the night? Is your partner complaining that your snoring is keeping them up all hours? You may be suffering from sleep apnea.

The Mayo Clinic says sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can affect anyone, but most often older men who are overweight. Often, the signs of sleep apnea are recognized not by you, but by your bed partner.

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person
  • Sudden awakenings with a sensation of gasping or choking during sleep
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
  • Headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Mood disturbances such as irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Night sweats

Several studies have shown an association between sleep apnea and problems like type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. Why this connection? Obesity is common in sleep apnea patients, and obesity greatly increases risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition. Complications can include:

Daytime fatigue. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible, making severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability likely. You might have difficulty concentrating and find yourself falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. People with sleep apnea have an increased risk of motor vehicle and workplace accidents. You might also feel quick-tempered, moody or depressed. Children and adolescents with sleep apnea might perform poorly in school or have behavior problems.

High blood pressure or heart problems. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. Sleep apnea increases your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). It might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation.

Type 2 diabetes. Having sleep apnea increases your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Complications with medications and surgery. Obstructive sleep apnea is also a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea might be more likely to have complications after major surgery because they’re prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Before you have surgery, tell your doctor about your sleep apnea and how it’s being treated.

Sleep-deprived partners. Loud snoring can keep anyone who sleeps near you from getting good rest. It’s not uncommon for a partner to have to go to another room to get some sleep.

Treatment

For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend only lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures don’t improve your sleep, your doctor may recommend a sleep study or use a CPAP machine to help you breathe properly while sleeping.

While you’re trying your best to get a good night’s rest, you can test how different sleeping positions affect your health. 

Concern

Positions To Try

Additional Tips

low back pain

side, fetal, back

When sleeping on your side, try placing a pillow between your knees to help with spine alignment.

neck pain

back, side

Use a thicker pillow if sleeping on your side and a thinner pillow when sleeping on your back.

sleep apnea, snoring

side, fetal, stomach

If sleeping on your stomach, try putting a pillow under your pelvis and consider using a thinner pillow under your head.

acid reflux

side

Sleeping on your left side may be more effective than sleeping on your right side.

pregnancy

fetal, side

Experiment with using a body pillow or wedge pillow for added comfort.

sinus congestion

back

Prop your head up with an extra pillow to help with drainage.

hip or knee pain

back

Try placing a pillow under your knees to take pressure off your spine.

More information on sleeping positions can be found here.

We all know regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet are the most important things you can do for your cardiovascular health, but the quality of sleep you receive is also critical to your heart’s wellbeing. If sleep apnea is not treated, it can cause a number of health problems such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and heart attack. Texas Emergency Care Center is located in your neighborhood and can help you manage these symptoms and conditions.