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Six warning signs of sleep apnea

Despite going to bed early each night, you feel like you’re swimming through mud over the course of the day — irritable and fatigued, your blood pressure rising along with your frustration. Your partner is tired, too: kept awake into the late hours of the night listening to your snoring.

If this sounds like you, you might be suffering from sleep apnea, a common condition characterized by breathing repeatedly stopping and starting throughout the sleep cycle. In addition to causing daytime exhaustion, sleep apnea can lead to a number of serious side effects, ranging from an increased risk for heart attack and stroke to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, liver problems and sleep-deprived partners.

“Sleep apnea is one of the most common — and one of the most dangerous — sleep disorders out there,” says Ted Bradshaw, RPSGT, RST, manager of Maury Regional Health Sleep Centers. “Symptoms of sleep apnea are most often first noticed by sleeping partners, whose own sleep can be impacted by the condition as well.”

Warning signs of sleep apnea can include:

  • Loud or excessive snoring
  • Choking or gasping noises while sleeping
  • A lack of energy throughout the day
  • Morning headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability, depression and mood swings

Sleep apnea can impact anyone — including children. However, certain risk factors can increase someone’s risk for sleep apnea, including but not limited to family history, smoking or alcohol consumption, obesity, age, nasal congestion, a large neck or a narrow airway. Men are often more likely to experience sleep apnea, but post-menopausal women and children with enlarged tonsils/adenoids are also susceptible to it.

If you believe you might be suffering from sleep apnea, the first step is to talk with your physician, who may recommend a sleep study.

“During a sleep study, you’ll be monitored with devices that record heart rate, snoring, airflow, oxygen levels, brain waves and movement in the muscles and eyes,” Bradshaw says. “A board-certified sleep medicine physician will then interpret and share the results of the study with your physician.”

For more information about sleep apnea or other common sleep disorders, such as insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome or sleepwalking, visit

Ted Bradshaw, RPSGT, RST, is the manager of Maury Regional Health Sleep Centers. Sleep studies are performed at sleep centeres in Columbia, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Waynesboro. Call 931.490.REST (7378) for more information.