Sleep Apnea Can Cause Dizziness Due To Oxygen Deprivation
The most common type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, causes the upper airway to collapse during sleep, according to a 2020 StatPearls article. This makes it more difficult to breathe, and can partially or fully cut off the oxygen supply to the body for brief periods. When this occurs, a person may snore or wake up. In some cases, a person may rouse from their sleep dozens or even hundreds of times a night without remembering doing so.
This oxygen deprivation may cause dizziness, especially when a person first wakes up. A 2020 Otology and Neurotology study found that people with moderate to severe sleep apnea were more likely to experience dizziness, suggesting that dizziness might be a symptom of a relatively higher number of apneic episodes during the night.
Itâs also possible that the dizziness of sleep apnea is related to sleep deprivation, since some people may feel dizzy or light-headed when very tired.
How To Diagnose Osa
Did you know that it’s very difficult to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea without help from a bed partner or doctor?
If you’re lucky enough, your bed partner will see that you have breathing problems in sleep, like loud snoring or pauses in breathing.
Self-Questionnaire for OSA
Here a short explanation of obstructive apnea diagnosis for your bed partner or whoever lives with you.
Your partner may need the info to understand the severity of your sleep problems.
Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure
Bilevel positive airway pressure machines are sometimes used for the treatment of OSA if CPAP therapy is not effective.
BPAP machines, sometimes called BiPAP machines, have settings that deliver two pressures in response to your breathing: inhaled pressure and exhaled pressure. This means the pressure changes during inhaling versus exhaling.
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Getting Tested For Sleep Apnoea
If a GP thinks you might have sleep apnoea, they may refer you to a specialist sleep clinic for tests.
At the clinic, you may be given devices that check things like your breathing and heartbeat while you sleep.
You’ll be asked to wear these overnight so doctors can check for signs of sleep apnoea.
You can usually do this at home, but sometimes you may need to stay in the clinic overnight.
The test can show if you have sleep apnoea and how severe it is. This is based on how often your breathing stops while you sleep .
Your AHI score shows how severe your sleep apnoea is:
- AHI of 5 to 14 mild
- AHI of 15 to 30 moderate
- AHI over 30 severe
Dizziness Is One Of The Many Daytime Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Dizziness is just one of a range of daytime sleep apnea symptoms. According to the American Sleep Association, some other signs include:
- Headaches, especially in the morning
- Distraction, forgetfulness, and memory issues
- Feeling very tired during the day, even when you think you slept well the night before
- Having a dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
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Classic Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
Snoring , unrestful sleep, morning headaches, daytime sleepiness and of course, fatigue, says Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore Diplomate, American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.
The person with untreated sleep apnea may be prone to napping a lot but never feeling recharged.
He or she may avoid extended driving trips because they know theyll become drowsy behind the wheel.
The morning headaches disappear soon after getting out of bed.
You may not have the more overt signs of sleep apnea, such as snoring or excess daytime grogginess.
Undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea Where Are You Headed
OSA can be life threatening. OSA is not only harmful in itself, but is correlated with many serious and potentially fatal illnesses and complications.
Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, diabetes, and sleep-deprived driving accidents. The most serious complication of OSA is a severe form of congestive heart failure. Sleep apnea sufferers also have a significantly higher risk of heart attack or premature death than those unaffected.
If you think you have OSA, you should not ignore the signs.
If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you livelihood doesnt have to be threatened. There are ways to manage this condition and still drive commercially.
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Tests To Confirm Sleep Apnoea
If you have symptoms that suggest obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, or a high score on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, your GP may refer you to a specialist for tests. There are various types of test that can be done whilst you sleep. The ones done may be determined by local policies and availability of equipment. For example:
- A sensor may record snoring volume and body movement whilst you sleep.
- The oxygen level in your blood can be monitored by a probe clipped on to your finger.
- Breathing can be monitored and recorded by the use of special belts placed around the chest and tummy .
- A video of you sleeping may be undertaken.
You may be asked to spend a night in hospital for the tests to be done. However, some of the tests may be done in your own home from equipment supplied by the specialist. The information gained from the tests can help a specialist to firmly diagnose or rule out sleep apnoea.
Your doctor will usually check your blood pressure. They may also suggest other tests to exclude other causes of your sleepiness. For example, a blood test can check for an underactive thyroid gland.
Sleep Apnea Causes And Risk Factors
While anyone can have sleep apnea, certain factors increase the risk:
- Sex Men are much more likely to have sleep apnea than women, although after menopause, frequency in women increases.
- Older age While sleep apnea can occur at any age, it is more common as you get older. According to the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort study, its prevalence peaks when people are in their 50s and 60s and then plateaus.
- Weight The risk of sleep apnea is much higher in those who are overweight, and higher still in those who are obese.
- Anatomical differences Physical attributes that can contribute to sleep apnea include a small upper airway, a small or receding jaw, a long soft palate, a high tongue position, a deviated septum, and enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
- Smoking According to a study conducted by Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, University of Wisconsin, Madison, smokers are three times more likely to have sleep apnea than those who have never smoked.
- Neck circumference greater than 17 inches in men or 16 inches in women.
Allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage can also contribute to sleep apnea.
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Is It Sleep Apnea Or Just Snoring
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. So how do you tell the difference between normal snoring and a more serious case of sleep apnea?
The biggest telltale sign is how you feel during the day. Normal snoring doesnt interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea does, so youre less likely to suffer from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day. The way you sound when youre snoring also provides clues. As mentioned above, if youre gasping, choking, or making other unusual sounds, you should suspect sleep apnea.
Keep in mind that even if you dont have sleep apnea, a snoring problem can get in the way of your bed partners rest and affect your own sleep quality. But there are tips and treatments that can help you stop snoring.
Perform Muscle Stretching Exercises
To lessen the amount of discomfort you are feeling it is important to be mindful of your teethplacement by keeping a small space between your upper and lower teeth to avoid grinding.
Another commonly practiced exercise is to open your mouth as wide as possible while maintainingcomfort then attempting to touch your tongue to your front teeth. This exercise is designed to relaxyour jaw muscles and reduce the amount of tension built up.
What Is Sleep Apnoea
Sleep apnoea, or obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome , is a condition where your breathing stops for short spells when you are asleep. The word apnoea means without breath – that is, the breathing stops. In the case of sleep apnoea, the breathing stops because of an obstruction to the flow of air down your airway. The obstruction to the airflow occurs in the throat at the top of the airway.
You may also have episodes where your breathing becomes abnormally slow and shallow. This is called hypopnoea. Because there can also be these episodes of hypopnoea, doctors sometimes use the term ‘obstructive sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome’.
How To Properly Score Each Type Of Apnea
The distinction between central and obstructive hypopneas got lost somewhere along the line, and labs started to score and report them as a single entity. This has changed.
The goal of a sleep professional is to treat your patients and ensure their breathing patterns are stabilized. For you to do this, you have to have the proper equipment. Where CPAP works well for obstructive apneas and hypopnea events, other treatment modalities work better for most central events. Central apnea episodes are typically better controlled with either Bi-level pressure support or additional backup support through a Bi-level ST.
But, central hypopneas aren’t always controlled by any of these devices. For a more complex case of central hypopnea, you’ll have to give your patients Adaptive Servo Ventilation which is a more advanced therapy.
If you don’t know the difference between central and obstructive hypopneas, you’ll find it difficult to determine which device is best suited for the job.
Your patients that have complex breathing patterns might not have central apneas but may have central hypopneas involved in the waxing and waning pattern of breathing. When you don’t have enough documentation on central events, it can be difficult to obtain insurance coverage.
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How Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is Diagnosed
After careful screening, many primary care providers may refer at-risk patients to a sleep specialist at a sleep disorders clinic. A sleep test is usually conducted.
Patients meet with a provider who specializes in sleep disorders to further evaluate their risks and discuss the side-effects of untreated apnea. At this point patients select an appropriate sleep test and receive education about obstructive sleep apnea.
Home sleep tests are a good option. Their advantage is that they can be done at home in your own bed. The test kit consists of a belt worn around the chest, a lead wire connected to a finger, and a tube to the nose. The kit stores information and is battery operated.
Sleep Apnea Is An Independent Risk Factor For Vertigo
âSleep apnea can definitely cause daytime dizziness,â K.L. Ong, MBBS, a doctor in Singapore, tells WebMD Connect to Care. âSleep apnea reduces the blood supply to the brain at night. This can lead to daytime dizziness and headaches.â
A number of studies demonstrate a connection between sleep apnea and vertigo or dizziness. In fact, a 2021 PLOS ONE study found a higher incidence of obstructive sleep apnea among vertigo patients.
In addition, a 2017 nationwide population-based study published in The Laryngoscope also found a higher rate of vertigo among people with obstructive sleep apnea. After researchers adjusted for other factors that might cause dizziness, such as head trauma, the evidence demonstrated that obstructive sleep apnea can independently cause vertigo.
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Mild Sleep Apnea Definition
Lets begin with the clinical mild sleep apnea definition. Obstructive sleep apnea generally falls into one of three categories: Mild, moderate and severe.
On a case-by-cases basis, whether sleep apnea is regarded as mild, moderate or severe is determined based on how many times breathing stops when youre asleep. These breathing interruptions are called apneas a word derived from a Greek term that literally means a stop in breathing.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep thats interrupted five to 15 times per hour is defined as mild sleep apnea. Fifteen to 30 so-called events are rated as moderate sleep apnea, and the presence of more than 30 events per night is classified as severe sleep apnea.
Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea
There are many different treatment options for sleep apnea. The best option for you will depend on the type of sleep apnea you have and how severe it is.
One of the most effective ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea is by losing weight if youre overweight or obese. This can help reduce the amount of pressure on your airway while you sleep.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, a CPAP machine may be recommended as the primary treatment method. A CPAP machine is a device that delivers pressurized air through a mask into your nose while you sleep. This helps keep your airway open and prevents snoring and interruptions to your breathing.
Tongue Stabilizing Device
This is a device that helps keep the airway open by holding your tongue forward while you sleep. Its often used in combination with other treatment options such as CPAP therapy and weight loss.
Oral Appliance Therapy
An oral appliance is worn over your teeth, similar to a sports mouthguard. Do you snore while sleeping? You can wear a device while you sleep to make it stop. It will move the bones and tissues in your mouth and throat so they dont block your airway while you sleep. This type of treatment may be recommended if you have mild sleep apnea and cant use surgery or a machine.
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Scores For Osa Dont Always Correlate With Symptoms
Regardless of the criteria for categorizing OSA as mild, moderate, or severe, the severity of disease does not always correlate with the extent of symptoms. In other words, some people with very mild disease can be extremely symptomatic, with excessive sleepiness or severe insomnia, while others with severe disease have subjectively good sleep quality and do not have significant daytime impairment.
Sleep disorders also tend to overlap, and patients with OSA may suffer from comorbid insomnia, circadian disorders, sleep movement disorders , and/or conditions of hypersomnia . To truly improve a patients sleep and daytime functioning, a detailed sleep related history is needed, and sleep issues must be addressed via a comprehensive, multidimensional, and individualized approach.
Lifestyle Treatments For Sleep Apnea
For mild cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes may be enough to treat the issue. Your doctor will let you know if thats the right starting point. But even if you are prescribed a medical treatment, the following changes can help reduce your sleep apnea episodes and improve your sleep.
Lose weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can have an enormous impact. While it is usually not a total cure, it can reduce the number of breathing episodes you experience, reduce your blood pressure, and decrease daytime sleepiness. Even a small amount of weight loss can open up your throat and improve sleep apnea symptoms.
Exercise. Even when exercise does not lead to weight loss, it can decrease your sleep apnea breathing episodes and improve your alertness and energy during the day. Aerobic exercise, resistance training, and yoga are all good choices for strengthening the muscles in your airways and improving breathing.
Sleep on your side. Lying on your back is the worst position for sleep apnea, as it causes the jaw, tongue, and other soft tissues to drop back toward the throat, narrowing your airway. Sleeping on your stomach isnt much better, since lying face down or twisting your head to the side both obstruct breathing. Lying on your side, on the other hand, helps keep your airway open. If you find side sleeping uncomfortable or you tend to roll on to your back after youre asleep, countered side pillows or body pillows may help.
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What Are The Effects Of Sleep Apnea
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems including hypertension, stroke, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy , heart failure, diabetes, obesity and heart attacks.
Its likely that sleep apnea can cause arrhythmias and heart failure because if you have sleep apnea, you tend to have higher blood pressure. In fact, sleep apnea occurs in about 50% of people with heart failure or atrial fibrillation.
This is because sleep apnea can cause:
- Repeated episodes of oxygen lowering .
- Changes in carbon dioxide levels.
- Direct effects on the heart due to pressure changes within the chest.
- Increased levels of markers of inflammation.
With the high prevalence of sleep apnea in cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure , experts recommend that you dont delay in seeking the advice of your physician.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/03/2020.
Did You Knowthere Are Other Ways To Treat Osa Than A Cpap Machine
Most people I know with OSA have a forced-air flow CPAP machine on their bedside table. Its become quite obvious to me that most people know this as the only treatment.
However, there are a few other options you can try. The first is much less intrusive its an oral appliance that fits like a retainer between your upper and lower teeth. It keeps your jaw pulled forward while you sleep, which prevents your tongue from relaxing into the back of your throat.
And then there are both surgery and surgery-less options for more long-term results. Places like ADVENT offer procedures like balloon sinuplasty and turbinate reduction to open up the airway. Then there are the more well-known surgeries like a septoplasty
And then there are more involved surgeries that can remove tissue, restructure the chin, reposition the jaw, and even shrink the size of the tongue!
I always joke with family and friends that sleep apnea really has no business being as interesting as it is.
The truth is, its so much more than snoring. And brushing it off as such can actually be harmful to your health. Through my “Confessions of a Snore Partner” journey, I hope I can help one more person see the light, learn something new, and finally seek help!
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