Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

What is sleep apnea?

It is a sleep disorder. It usually occurs when the upper breathing way is repeatedly blocked. This causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start.

As such, the disorder is generally characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing. These may last from a few seconds to even minutes. When it happens, the body does not seem to get enough oxygen. One can also experience shallow breaths when they are asleep.  It is a potentially serious disorder linked to serious health issues. Sleep apnea is chronic. It can either last for years or just as well become a lifelong disease.  One can experience sleep apnea at any age. However, the usual onset age of sleep apnea is 55 to 60 years old.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea. These include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs more commonly. It results from the blocking of the airway. This is mostly when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses during sleep. On the other hand, with central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked as it was in OSA. Yet, your brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. This is due to the instability in the respiratory control center. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is a combination of both of these. It occurs when one experiences both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. It is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of the sleep apnea. It accounts for approximately 85% of cases in the United States whereas central sleep apnea cases account for less than 1%.

The most common sleep apnea symptoms are loud snoring and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep. Yet, sleep apnea needs to be medically diagnosed. As such, there is a set of symptoms one experiences for them to be medically diagnosed with sleep apnea. The symptoms of sleep apnea frequently overlap. This makes it quite difficult to determine the specific type of sleep apnea one is suffering from. The following are the most common symptoms of sleep apnea, of either type, that one is likely to experience.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

These symptoms include


It is the most frequent symptom. Individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea experience loud, disruptive and chronic snoring. Snoring is a sound produced by vibrations in the upper respiratory airways as you sleep. It results from the partial blocking or obstruction. Air is restricted from moving easily through the airways. The individual usually snores loudly enough to disturb other people’s sleep or even their own. There are punctuated periods of silence in between the snores. This symptom is more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea disorder. However, Dr Breus notes that not everyone with sleep apnea snores. Still,  not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.

Pauses in Breathing

This is a major indicator of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea to be specific. Popularly known as apnea events. They can last from 10 to 20 seconds and occur 5 to 30 times in an hour.

It causes people to constantly wake up at night during their sleep. When you sleep, the fatty tissues of your throat or tongue usually relax. They fall back into your airways thus restricting airflow. This causes you to stop breathing for a few seconds. This usually results in low oxygen levels in your blood. This causes your brain to wake itself from sleep long enough to jump-start your respiratory system into working properly again. This allows air to get past the blockage. Mostly, individuals remain asleep when the brain partially wakes up to react to this interruption. You are rarely even aware that you partially woke up. These frequent interruptions usually sound like choking and gasping sounds. This might alarm your bed partner, yet you largely remain unaware of them. These interruptions greatly affect your sleep quality and quantity. This could potentially cause a great deal of health problems for you.

Insomnia and Hypersomnia

Sleep apnea causes individuals to be excessively tired during the day, lack of energy and motivation to engage in the day to day activities among other symptoms. It can result in difficulty staying asleep (insomnia) at night. One can also experience excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia). Individuals are excessively drowsy during the day. Ever find yourself falling asleep as you write that report at work or while you are driving to pick up your laundry at the local laundry. Such incidents at worst are likely to result in fatal accidents.

Frequent Headaches

Individuals who suffer from sleep apnea tend to have frequent headaches. They mostly occur in the morning. The breathing pauses one takes as they sleep cause low oxygen levels. This is because less oxygen is delivered to the brain when one stops breathing during their sleep. These low oxygen levels necessitate the widening of blood vessels causing vascular blood headaches. This is one of the most frequent complaints sleep apnea sufferers are aware of. Even if they are not aware of their condition.

Mood Changes

Most individuals with sleep apnea experience mood changes. These, more often than not, leave them irritable. This is attributed to the inadequate rest of the body, leaving it worn out and tired. Other mood swing symptoms include being prone to anxiety, short-tempered. One can also become depressed if the condition persists over a long period of time. So if you constantly find yourself in an irritable mood that might possibly be related to your sleep. Seek medical advice.

Memory and Concentration

Sleep is supposed to help us rest and recuperate from the activities of daytime. Sleep apnea interrupts this recuperating stage of our day to day life. Your body is most likely not going to function as properly as it is supposed to. Sleep apnea causes one to forget small details. These could include where you kept your car keys or locking the backyard gate. One’s concentration is interfered with as well. Inadequate rest results in a reduction of your focus while performing various tasks.


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