Is it Sleep Apnea or Just Exhaustion?

Gained a few pounds over the past few years – Who hasn’t? Tired all of the time – Who isn’t? Getting older, grumpier, and less tolerant – Who’s not? The question remains: Is it sleep apnea or just exhaustion?

So how do you know when you really have a problem or just have to suck-it-up-buttercup? That’s the question I have been asking my stubborn husband for 2 years now And the question patients ask me every day.

OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea is the rage these days. And by rage I mean everyone is getting it. It is almost as contagious as tech neck in teens will be in 20 years. And, no, we are not “catching” sleep apnea. We are getting fat as a society, actually as a world. It’s a Small World now requires plus size seating.

And my house is no exception. My husband put on a few pounds recently. His snoring increased as did my, I mean his, sleepless nights. He now started coming home and falling asleep on the couch – a drastic change in energy for a typically active man.

His lovely physician wife video-taped him snoring and breath-holding. And he still said, “I just need to lose weight. I can fix this myself.”

You see there are 2 problems with that plan:

1. It is REALLY hard to get motivated and actually start losing weight when you are tired all of the time. You aren’t going to get that weight off by lifting the remote in bed.

2. Sleep apnea does not just cause tiredness. There are real health repercussions here – like increased rates of heart disease – to contend with. High blood pressure is more difficult to treat in combination with sleep apnea and there is an increased risk of DEATH. Tell that to the treadmill that now hangs clothing.

Until you ADDRESS sleep apnea, the weight gain that commonly causes it will be difficult to correct. And, like my husband, you will be caught in a vicious cycle. Hopefully, your wife isn’t the know-it-all this poor man has to deal with.

What symptoms point to sleep apnea over just weight gain?

Weight gain is typically part of the sleep apnea picture. But sleep apnea is by definition breath-holding while sleeping. People typically snore loudly, awake frequently, and have episodes of “snorting” followed by periods of not breathing. They then may awaken gasping for air or feel like they are choking. They may not even remember these events but their loving spouse likely will.

Is it sleep apnea or just exhaustion

People with sleep apnea are tired even when awakening in the morning and nod off during the day. More sleep is not the answer as their sleep is rarely restful.

How do you test for sleep apnea?

If this picture fits you, the next step is easy. Go to your Doctor. A brief questionnaire and physical exam will likely lead to a sleep study. This can be done at a facility or in your home. During the study, you will be monitored for breath-holding spells while you sleep.

Won’t you hate the machine anyway?

Yes, I know. Your Uncle and your neighbor both hated their CPAP machines. They got anxious and claustrophobic with the CPAP mask. The good news is there are now many options other than just the traditional face mask available today.

The goal of a CPAP machine is to get the necessary positive airway pressure to keep your throat open and you breathing while you sleep. It may take about a week but many patients really end up loving the thing. Breathing is kind of important after all.

And you WILL start to feel more rested, sleep better at night, and not have to listen to your nagging spouse … most of the time. That is if you get off the couch to get this whole process started.

Simple Solution: Sleep apnea is the ultimate in tired – all day long. Ask your significant other if you snore, snort, or hold your breath during sleep. And, if they say a resounding YES, it is worth heading to the Doctor to get checked out. You will feel much better when treated.

For more on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale commonly used to diagnose Sleep Apnea, check out:

For more Blog Posts on Tiredness:

Weight Gain: