If you have sleep apnea, you might not even be aware of it. You also may not realize how bad it can be. If someone isn't there while you're sleeping to hear you snore loudly or gasp for air in your sleep, it can go completely undetected. Another sign is how sleep apnea can affect everyday life.
Sleep apnea can have serious consequences if the moderate to severe cases are left untreated. Because you've stopped breathing for short periods of time throughout the night, you're losing oxygen, which is vital to all the cells in your body. It can lead to heart disease because your heart has to compensate and work harder for the shortage of oxygen in your bloodstream.
Of course, sleep apnea becomes especially apparent when it starts to affect how you feel during the day. Here are some common ways that sleep apnea can affect everyday life:
Sleep apnea can cause insomnia, or cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. You might have a hard time falling back to sleep, or it might prevent you from getting into the deep stages of sleep. The deep “REM” which stands for “Rapid Eye Movement” stage of sleep, is the most critical stage. You need to be able to reach this stage and remain there for enough time to get a good night's rest.
Daytime Fatigue can be caused by a lack of sleep, but also from not getting enough oxygen to your brain and rest of your body. Sleep apnea can affect everyday life in almost every aspect if you are too tired. Your job and relationships will start to suffer. You won't have the energy to do the things you like to do.
Moodiness, Irritability or Depression
A side effect of being tired all the time is its effect on your moods and your mental health. The CDC recently conducted a study that confirmed sleep apnea has a direct link with depression:
“Snorting, gasping or stopping breathing while asleep was associated with nearly all depression symptoms, including feeling hopeless and feeling like a failure. We expected persons with sleep-disordered breathing to report trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, or feeling tired and having little energy, but not the other symptoms.” - Anne G. Wheaton, Ph.D., lead author of the study.
Aside from depression, which is itself a clinical disorder, you can be prone to extreme mood swings and get irritated over small issues that you otherwise could have easily handled.
Loss of Brain Function
Since you're losing so much oxygen, and you're fatigued from not being able to reach and maintain REM sleep, it's natural that you will lose some of your brain function. You can become very forgetful and have trouble concentrating. These things can make daily tasks much harder.
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. Even if you don't have sleep apnea, they can still affect everyday life and have an impact on your health and well-being.