If you usually have trouble falling asleep, better bedtime habits like maintaining a consistent sleep schedule or avoiding blue light in the evenings could help. But if you usually wake up in the middle of the night, it might be a sign of a deeper issue. 

“If [you have] trouble staying asleep, it usually means you have an underlying sleep disorder, [such as] sleep apnea,” says double board-certified sleep doctor and neurologist Joseph Krainin.

Sleep apnea is characterized by episodes of a partial or complete collapse of the airway during sleep, which interrupts breathing. Dr. Krainin explains that these throat closure episodes usually occur during rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep.

“During REM sleep, our muscle tone falls off the cliff and our airway becomes very likely to collapse,” he says. “You wake up and you feel wide awake because you had such a strong stress response. But because you’re asleep, by definition, you’re unaware [that you’ve stopped breathing].” 

The most common sign of sleep apnea is chronic snoring, which occurs as air is forced to go through a narrowed airway. Another sign is feeling warm or sweaty in your sleep. This is due to the increase in body temperature that can occur every time your throat closes. 

Aside from the obvious inconvenience of waking up during the night, sleep apnea also has more serious consequences. Your sleep becomes non-restorative, which means that you don’t feel refreshed in the morning, even when you are getting enough sleep.  During the day, you might feel fatigued or excessively sleepy, and you might experience headaches, inability to focus, and/or irritability.

Sleep apnea could lead to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke— the same issues that chronically sleeping for less than 6 hours a night can cause. Dr. Krainin explains that the first manifestation of sleep apnea is usually high blood pressure, but it can also lead to erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, and dementia.

If you are experiencing any sleep apnea symptoms, it’s a good idea to get tested for sleep apnea. There are alternatives that don’t require multiple appointments and that don’t involve spending the night at a sleep center.

Woman lying on kitchen table after sleepless night, trying to drink coffee
Common symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring and excessive sleepiness during the day. Less common symptoms include night sweats and acid reflux.

Dr. Krainin founded Singular Sleep in 2015 to eliminate the ‘middleman’ between you and a sleep test. You can order a test online without a referral, do the test in the comfort of your home, and go over your results and any treatment plans with Dr. Krainin via teleconference.

When you order a test from Singular Sleep, a sleep apnea test kit, approved by the American Academy of sleep medicine, is shipped to you. The device has a belt that you attach around your waist, and a cannula you wear on your nose before you go to sleep.  The belt is the brain of the device and it records data on your breathing and body position. A pulse-oximeter continuously measures your oxygen levels. 

The test distinguishes between obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. “Obstructive means the person is initiating breaths, but no air is moving. Central means the throat is open, but no air is moving because they’re simply not trying to breathe,” explains Dr. Krainin. 

If you test positive for sleep apnea, you can set up an appointment online for a virtual consultation to go over your sleep study report, and any treatment options you might need. You might also explore lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, reducing or  eliminating alcohol, quitting smoking, avoiding or minimizing sleeping on your back, and raising the head of your bed. 

If you believe you might have sleep apnea, consider getting tested. Go to the ‘offers’ tile in your LIFE Fasting Tracker or LIFE Extend app and tap on ‘Sleep Apnea Test’ to order a test from Singular Sleep at a discounted price. We may receive a small commission when you purchase.