Being tired seems to be a fact of life for many midlifers, but sometimes that fatigue is a sign of a sleep disorder that you may not even know you have. One of the most common is apnea, which becomes more prevalent with age.
People with this sleep disorder frequently don't know they have it - but their partners certainly do.
That's because a major symptom is often snoring - sometimes so loud that it wakes up the whole household. It's that "freight train" kind of snoring that you see in cartoons.
If you have this disorder, you actually stop breathing at night. In fact, that's what the word apnea means in Greek — stopping breathing. You wake up just enough to start breathing normally - until the next episode. Most of the time, you aren't aware of what has happened because you're not fully conscious and you won't remember it the next morning.
These episodes can happen dozens of times a night and the apnea sufferer wakes up exhausted but isn't sure why.
There are a number of remedies for apnea, including a special mask that keeps your airways open. Some doctors also advise sewing a ball into the back of your pajamas so you don't sleep on your back - a position that makes it more likely to have an apnea episode.
If you think this is your problem, make an appointment to see a sleep medicine specialist who may advise spending a night in a sleep lab to diagnose the problem. (It's important to note that not all apnea sufferers snore, so if you feel you're getting enough sleep but are still tired in the morning, talk to your doctor.)
Take this seriously. Apnea itself is a health risk that has been linked to a higher rate of high blood pressure and heart disease.
And a new study suggests that in people who already have cancer, apnea could increase the risk of dying. The study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that people with the most severe apnea (defined as 30 or more episodes a night) were five times as likely to die of cancer compared to cancer patients without apnea.