Signs that poor sleep may be a more significant health issue

Sleep is essential to overall immunity and well-being, so disruptive sleep can affect personal health, family life and work. When you don’t get optimal sleep, it can hold you back from feeling energized, productive and healthy, not to mention lead to more significant health issues.

Everyone experiences a bad night of sleep every once in a while. But a new survey of 1,000 American adults reveals that stress over the past year is negatively impacting quality of sleep for half of Americans.

Results of the survey, conducted by digital health leader ResMed, indicate one in three adults are sleeping less than they did a year ago.

“This is an alarming trend and another important consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Carlos M. Nunez, M.D., chief medical officer at ResMed. “While trouble sleeping can sometimes be chalked up to stress or anxiety, it’s critical to monitor other symptoms you might be experiencing, as it could point to a more concerning health issue.”

But when is poor sleep more than just a bad night or a result of a stressful day?

One of the most common sleep disorders is sleep apnea; 54 million adults in the U.S. have sleep apnea — but more than 80% don’t know they have it.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the muscles in the throat relax to the point of collapse, restricting airflow. This causes breathing to become shallow and eventually stop for 10 or more seconds at a time, depriving the body and brain of oxygen.

In other words, millions of people are suffocating each night while they sleep and have no idea.

Many people don’t realize that sleep apnea not only impacts your quality of sleep and prevents you from getting proper rest, but can have additional devastating consequences if it goes undiagnosed and untreated. Untreated sleep apnea can immediately and negatively affect your energy, mood, relationships, ability to work and drive safely, and in the long term, it is linked to other chronic and life-threatening conditions — including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

The most common sign of sleep apnea is usually observed by your bed partner: snoring.

Many people believe that snoring means someone is in a deep sleep or sleeping well, but it’s actually the number-one indicator of sleep apnea — for both men and women.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea include constant tiredness, poor concentration, morning headaches, depressed mood, night sweats, weight gain, lack of energy, forgetfulness, sexual dysfunction and frequent nighttime urination, among others.

“The good news is that sleep apnea is treatable and modern CPAP therapy is much more comfortable, quieter and smaller than ever before,” said Nunez. “Just by following the treatment for sleep apnea that your doctor recommends, your quality of sleep will dramatically increase, and your risk of other chronic conditions drops.”

If you’re concerned about your health and quality of sleep, Nunez suggests talking to your doctor about your symptoms. They may even ask you to track your sleep using a digital tool, like an app or one of the fitness wearables with sleep tracking features, or by taking notes in a journal. Additionally, you can visit SleepForBetterTomorrow.com to take a short quiz to see if you’re at risk for sleep apnea.

The next time you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, or feeling constantly sluggish, don’t discount sleep apnea. It is common — and easily treated at home.

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