Do I have sleep apnea?

A common question people ask themselves when they don’t get a good night’s sleep is “Do I have sleep apnea?”

Obstructive sleep apnea (or apnoea) impacts approximately 34% of people in Australia. OSA can affect individuals across all age groups. With OSA, your throat becomes obstructed during your sleep, disrupting your sleep patterns and often resulting in snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea can have a greater impact on some individuals, reducing or even stopping breathing for up to a minute or more.

What are the symptoms?

If you wake up often during the night, gasping for air and out of breath, you might have OSA. As a result, you may feel unrefreshed and exhausted in the morning, given the disrupted nature of your sleep. As mentioned, you (or your partner) might notice that you’re snoring more often in your sleep, especially when sleeping on your back. This could result from the obstructed throat passage that is caused by OSA.

How do I know for sure?

If you’ve ever asked “Do I have sleep apnea?”, it’s a good idea to visit your GP. Relay the above symptoms to your doctor, and if they feel it’s necessary, they can refer you to a specialist who will conduct a sleep study. Sleep studies are conducted overnight, to gain an authentic look into your usual sleep habits. During a sleep study, the specialist will measure your sleep, breathing and oxygen levels.

What’s next?

If you are diagnosed with OSA, there are various ways to treat it depending on the severity. For more severe OSA, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks can be effective. The CPAP sends gentle pressure over your nose via a mask, which helps to open your throat during the night. As mentioned, OSA is caused by obstructions of the throat, so using a CPAP mask to keep your airways open is highly effective. The CPAP mask only needs to be used while you’re sleeping in bed. It helps to stop snoring as well, which should additionally help you (and your partner) get some needed, undisturbed rest.

OSA has a significant impact on the individuals suffering from it, including increased stress on your body due to a lack of sleep. If you think you may have OSA, speak to your GP today.