If you have been feeling chronically tired, or if your feelings of tiredness and fatigue do not seem to be resolved with a good night sleep, there could be a number of underlying medical conditions that could be causing the problem.
One possible cause of daytime drowsiness and fatigue is sleep apnea.
When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing while you are sleeping. You may find yourself waking up coughing and choking, or you may notice nothing but snoring.
If you find yourself sleepy while driving, or if you fall asleep while trying to read or watch television, sleep apnea could be the culprit.
To diagnose sleep apnea, your doctor will order a sleep study. This involves your spending the night in a sleep lab hooked to a number of pieces of equipment that will record your brain activity, detect facial movement such as:
- The rapid eye movement that occurs during dreaming
- Measure your blood oxygen saturation level
- Measure your respiration and heart rate
- Detect snoring
- Clenching and grinding of the teeth
- Symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
You are typically also recorded while you are sleeping. Technicians in the sleep lab will monitor you as you sleep. The process is not painful, though trying to sleep with all the various monitors and electrodes attached can be a bit difficult at first.
If you are found to have sleep apnea, you will typically need a CPAP or BiPAP machine to use while sleeping. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure and BiPAP for bi-level positive airway pressure.
Both of these machines provide a positive, forced stream of air which helps keep your airways open and keep you breathing. [sleep apnea treatments]
The CPAP does this continually, as the name implies, while the BiPAP machine provides the air less forcefully during the time you exhale.
Your doctor will order a second sleep study to determine the lowest setting at which your CPAP or BiPAP will be effective in preventing sleep apnea episodes.
Sleep apnea is a dangerous disease. More than just tiredness, it can cause elevated blood pressure and even increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you have sleep apnea you may be more likely to be depressed or overweight as well. Falling asleep while driving can also have serious and fatal consequences. If you think you have sleep apnea, or you are chronically tired, talk to your doctor.