Ever feel tired during the day, but got plenty of sleep the night before? Ever wake up with unexplained headaches? Are you a loud snorer? If you said yes to any of these, it’s possible you have sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop and start breathing throughout the night. This can happen hundreds of times while you sleep. Because of this, your brain (and the rest of your body) may not get enough oxygen.
Sleep apnea occurs when muscles in the back of your throat relax, causing soft tissues in your throat to collapse while you sleep. Your brain senses this and wakes you up to reopen your airway. Crazy thing is, it’s so brief, you won’t even remember you woke up! But, this constant waking up disrupts your sleep cycle. That’s why you feel sleepy while you are awake, even if you think you slept through the night.
With certain types of sleep apnea, your brain sometimes forgets to tell you to wake up and breathe. This means you briefly stop breathing over and over while you sleep. This can cause you to wake up with shortness of breath. Also, you may end up having a hard time going to sleep or staying asleep.
Symptoms of sleep apnea may include:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up with a dry or sore throat
- Restless sleep
- Sleepiness during the day
- Morning headaches
- Waking up choking or gasping
- Waking up often
- Not being able to stay asleep
- Forgetfulness or attention problems
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause many health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart problems, exhaustion, depression, and/or obesity. It can affect your everyday performance at work or school—and even impact your readiness as a Soldier, too.
Don’t worry, treatment is available for sleep apnea. In some cases, you can make these simple lifestyle changes to help:
- Sleep on your side.
- Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Eat healthier.
- Aim for a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Limit alcohol intake.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to your Medical Readiness NCO or medical health professional. They may recommend a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea or a sleep disorder. TRICARE Reserve Select may cover costs associated with a sleep study, therapy, or treatment, such as the use of a respiratory assist device.