Do you find yourself struggling to feel rested? Do you have mood and memory problems? Those issues might be caused by obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that occurs when you struggle to breathe freely throughout the night and can lead to fragmented sleep. Sleep apnea affects 18 million Americans—and there are certain characteristics that can put you at a higher risk for the disorder. Look out for these five.
Some of these factors—like the size of your neck and the size of your airway—are obviously things that you can’t change. But you can try making lifestyle changes, such as getting your weight into a healthy range and reducing or eliminating tobacco and alcohol, to lower your risk for the disorder.
If you do suspect that you may have sleep apnea, don’t wait to see a doctor. It’s a serious disorder that can be life threatening, so you’ll want to treat it as soon as possible—both to protect your health and to get more sleep and feel more energized.
If you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important for you and your doctor to assess how it is affecting your health and quality of life. The following are good questions to ask your doctor about sleep apnea and excessive sleepiness. Here you will also find a screener for excessive sleepiness. You can print both of these and bring them to your next doctor’s appointment.
Habitual snoring is usually not a reason for parents be concerned. As many as one in 10 kids under the age of 10 snore regularly, with most of them tapering off as they get older. Sometimes though, snoring can be an indicator of a more serious condition, including pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—a condition that can result in disrupted sleep, cognitive impairments, and even death. Is your child’s snoring cause for concern? Here are some factors to consider before talking to your physician.
The Snoring Is Intense
Snoring is far and away the most common symptom of OSA, reported in more than 90 percent of cases. But as anyone who’s ever gone to sleepaway camp can tell you, not all snores are created equal. Take an extended listen to your child’s snoring: If the sounds are punctuated by gasps or labored breathing, or if they are accompanied by thrashing in bed, they could be a sign of a more serious condition.
Your Child Is Overweight
Childhood obesity is a growing contributor to kids at risk for OSA. A 20-year review by the Centers for Disease Control of obesity-associated diseases among children ages 6 to 17 found hospital discharges for sleep apnea in this population increased a whopping 436 percent during that time span.
Your Child Struggles with Bedwetting
One symptom of OSA is an increased risk for bedwetting at night. One possible explanation is that children who suffer from sleep-disordered breathing frequently produce more sweat and urine than normal, which may lead to bedwetting. OSA may also have an effect on a child’s arousal response, bladder pressure, or urinary hormone secretion, all of which could contribute to nighttime bedwetting.
Behavior Problems Are on the Rise
While snoring and other nocturnal symptoms can be clues to the presence of pediatric OSA, other signs may be more clear in the light of day. A bad night’s sleep can impact anyone’s daily routine, and kids are no different—especially in cases of chronic restlessness. Sleep disruptions related to OSA can leave kids feeling not quite themselves. Moodiness, disruptive behavior, and trouble paying attention may all be indications of disrupted sleep, particularly when combined with other symptoms.
While OSA can be serious, it’s also a very common and treatable condition. If you are concerned that your child’s snoring may be a sign of something more serious, talk with your family physician. You child may need to see a sleep specialist for a polysomnography—or sleep study—which can help with a more concrete diagnosis.