Sleep helps the body restore and refresh the cells and organs. While most people will have a bad night or two of sleep from time to time, chronic sleep problems increase the risk of serious health complications.
Sleep disorders can be treated when diagnosed. However, it is estimated over 10 million people suffer with sleep apnea -- yet most of them don’t realize they have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of sleep apnea.
This is why sleep apnea testing is so important.
Excessive daytime fatigue is a primary symptom of a disorder like OSA. However, there are several more signs which could indicate you need to consider sleep apnea testing. Anyone can develop OSA, regardless of gender, age or weight -- so it’s important to recognize the signs.
Signs you need a sleep test:
#1 - Your sleep pattern is “off”
If you are struggling to fall asleep, struggling to stay asleep, waking frequently through the night, or waking too early, you should consider a sleep test. Such changes in your sleep-wake cycle can result in the excessive daytime fatigue which is symptomatic of a sleep disorder. You may also find yourself taking regular afternoon naps due to daytime fatigue, but these naps are not a recommended solution if you have ongoing sleep deprivation.
#2 – Snoring
Heavy snoring is one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder which causes breathing difficulties overnight as the airways collapse. Snoring occurs when the throat muscles relax as you sleep, leading to a vibration as the airways become partially blocked. The frequent, often imperceptible awakenings to breathe result in sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue.
#3 - Irritability and difficulty with concentration
Anyone who has just one bad night of sleep can testify to being more irritable than usual the following day, while also struggling to concentrate on their daily tasks. This is compounded by ongoing sleeping problems, to the point where it can place pressures on a relationship, home, and work life. Reduced concentration also increases your risk of accidents, particularly on the road when combined with fatigue.
#4 - Depression and anxiety
The link between sleep disorders and depression or anxiety cannot be ignored, although it may not be easy to exactly interpret. The conditions can be self-reinforcing, with anxiety and depression causing sleeping difficulties, which in turn can increase levels of anxiety and depression. With studies indicating someone with an undiagnosed sleep disorder is 10 times more likely to suffer with depression, it reiterates the importance of testing.
#5 - Chronic illness and pain
People with chronic illnesses and pain are also more likely to experience problems with their sleep. Pain is one of the leading causes of the sleep disorder insomnia, with studies showing up to 80% of those affected by chronic pain having sleeping difficulties.
Do you need a sleep test?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, there are three tools you could use at home to help you decide whether you should consult a doctor about a sleep test.
- The Epworth Sleepiness scale is a short questionnaire you can take aimed at determining your daytime level of fatigue.
- Certain health trackers, including some Fit-bit models, can measure your movement and how often you awake through the night, providing an indication of any sleeping issues.
- STOP-BANG is a questionnaire designed as a tool to screen for obstructive sleep apnea, including questions about neck size, BMI and high blood pressure
The importance of sleep testing
Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are debilitating, denying the important restorative sleep you need to function properly. Sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Too often fatigue is written off as just one of those things, an unfortunate consequence of busy, modern lives. However, once diagnosed, a sleep disorder can be treated, reducing or eliminating the associated symptoms.
Anyone experiencing consistent sleeping issues and symptoms of a sleep disorder should consult a doctor.
At-home sleep testing has proven to be very easy and effective in diagnosing sleep apnea. SleepQuest’s sleep specialists are available to discuss your sleep problems and explain sleep apnea testing.
Sleep apnea testing is a vital first step to the diagnosis and treatment, to help reduce the risk of serious health problems from continued sleep deprivation.