If you suffer from chronic low energy, consider this before you reach for your next caffeine fix - you may be one of the millions of Americans suffering from something called sleep apnea.
It has been estimated that sleep apnea is as common as asthma or diabetes in the United States. Worse, it has also been estimated that 85-90% of people suffering from sleep apnea are either undiagnosed or untreated! That's a lot of sleepy people walking around, and even scarier - driving around.
In sleep apnea, a person literally stops breathing during sleep - the body then reacts by arousing the person just enough to gasp for breath. Most people do not wake up fully, and do not remember struggling for breath during their sleep. The result, however, is that they never get enough of the restorative deep sleep that is so essential for health and energy. They wake up feeling tired, and frequently have to struggle to stay awake during parts of their day. In children, sleep apnea has been mistakenly diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder in some cases, because the effects of exhaustion can mimic symptoms of ADD or ADHD in children.
One of the major risk factors for developing sleep apnea is being overweight. In fact, some people are able to reverse their sleep apnea through weight loss. Other risk factors include cigarette smoking, being older, having chronic nasal congestion, using alcohol and sleeping pills, and having diabetes.
Untreated sleep apnea is worrisome for many reasons - it does direct damage to the body by raising blood pressure and straining the heart. Additionally, the constant fatigue that is endured by someone with sleep apnea makes it very difficult to participate fully in life events, and to have the proper energy to do physical activity or prepare healthy meals.
If you suspect sleep apnea, your doctor may order a sleep study; if sleep apnea is diagnosed, there are treatments available to you that will significantly improve your quality of sleep, and your overall energy. Here's to your good night's sleep!