Ask anyone how they are and “tired” is likely to be part of their answer.
In today’s busy, hectic world, it’s not hard to understand why so many of us are exhausted. We’re up with our kids at night, we’re working overtime, we’re watching too much television – the list always seems to go on and on.
Longing for cat nap during the day is one thing (and the occasional short nap can actually make you smarter), but if you’re unintentionally nodding off regularly? You might be suffering from sleep apnea.
First of all ...what is Sleep Apnea?
As common as it is undiagnosed, about 5.4 million Canadians suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by snoring, daytime sleepiness, waking up gasping, restless sleep, night sweats, morning headaches, fatigue, sleepiness while driving, and mood disorders (among other symptoms, and women’s sleep apnea symptoms can be completely different).
Why does it make people sleepy during the day? And how can they simply ignore it?
Sleep apnea interferes with your nighttime sleep quality – even if you don’t remember waking frequently. And because our day-to-day lives are so demanding, we rarely notice the impact sleep deprivation or exhaustion has on us until something scary happens – like falling asleep at the wheel (yikes).
Since we aren’t usually aware of night waking or snoring (especially if we live alone), it’s easy to overlook sleep apnea as a potential cause. If we have trouble waking up, we blame it on poor sleep, a late bedtime, stress, or too much on our minds.
If we have difficulty concentrating or we’re cranky, we think it’s something we did to ourselves and dismiss it. Of course, other health issues can make us sleepy during the day – think narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and pregnancy – but we tend to be aware of these conditions or have other corresponding symptoms.
More often than not, obstructive sleep apnea is the culprit, but because sleeping during the day can be attributed to depression or medication side effects, sleep apnea lingers undiagnosed; and in the case of depression, the sleep apnea can be the cause of both the sleepiness and the depression.
Why could it be dangerous if I’m sleepy during the day?
If left undiagnosed, sleep apnea can wreak total havoc on your body leading to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, high blood pressure, and depression. But sleep apnea also more than doubles the risk of car accidents (driving while sleep deprived is similar to driving while drunk). Additionally, sleep apnea doubles your risk of a workplace injury, never mind jeopardizing your work performance and productivity – putting your employment at risk.
Outside of car accidents and work issues, daytime sleepiness and fatigue negatively impacts your quality of life and your relationships suffer from it – sleep deprivation interferes with intimacy (romantic, familial, and friendships) and creates a significant disconnect from ourselves and our lives.
I’m always longing for a nap... should I be worried?
In some cases, solving your daytime sleepiness is as simple as following sleep tips like limiting technology time before bed, waking up with your alarm, or changing your sleep position.
If you’re prone to daytime sleepiness and have other sleep apnea symptoms, you may be at risk.
Take our sleep quiz to find out if you should undergo a sleep test. Luckily, obstructive sleep apnea is a treatable disorder, with mouth guards and CPAP machines being the primary sleep apnea treatments.