Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Man with sleep apnea symptoms

Sleep apnea can be extremely debilitating — especially if you feel sleepy every day and are unable to function optimally as a result of this chronic disorder. Knowing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea can help you determine whether sleep apnea is the true cause of your sleepiness, low energy, and daily fatigue. 

Here are common sleep apnea symptoms, and what to do next if you think you or your partner may be suffering from sleep apnea.

What Are the Different Types of Sleep Apnea?

There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Many symptoms overlap between these two types of sleep apnea, which is why it’s important to know the difference between each type, along with potential causes and risk factors. Some people may even have obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea at the same time — a condition known as complex sleep apnea syndrome.

Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common than central sleep apnea, and affects an estimated 22% of men and 17% of women globally. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when throat muscles relax to block the airway during sleep and is mainly caused by excess weight, smoking, and the use of alcohol and sedatives.

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain is unable to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. This can lead to short periods of stopped breathing, along with shortness of breath and sleep disturbances throughout the night. Central sleep apnea may be caused by the use of painkillers, heart disorders, and certain problems that affect the brain stem such as stroke or brain infection.

Man snoring from sleep apnea

What Are Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms?

The most common and obvious symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are loud, ongoing snoring and daytime sleepiness. Your sleeping partner and family members may complain or tease you about your snoring, and you may feel excessively tired while performing normal daily activities, such as driving a car or reading a book.

Other obstructive sleep apnea symptoms may include:

  • Periods of stopped breathing during sleep
  • Snorting and gasping during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Forgetfulness and memory problems
  • Night sweats
  • Decreased sexual libido
  • Depression
  • Chronic high blood pressure

What Are Central Sleep Apnea Symptoms?

Central sleep apnea shares many of the same symptoms as obstructive sleep apnea, with a few additional symptoms. Snoring can occur with central sleep apnea but is not the most prominent symptom compared to obstructive sleep apnea.

Common central sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Periods of stopped or abnormal breathing during sleep
  • Snorting and gasping during sleep
  • Shortness of breath during sleep that is relieved when sitting up
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Chest pain at night
  • Morning headaches
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Snoring
  • Reduced tolerance for exercise

Those with central nervous system problems may experience other symptoms. These additional symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Voice changes
  • Weakness or numbness in various parts of the body

What to Do If You Think You Have Sleep Apnea

If you or your partner are exhibiting signs of sleep apnea, the next best step to take is to visit a doctor or sleep specialist to receive a proper diagnosis.

When left untreated, sleep apnea can drastically reduce your quality of life and well-being, cause excessive fatigue and daytime sleepiness, and increase your risk for serious medical conditions. This sleep disorder may also strain the relationship with your partner, especially when sleep apnea symptoms like snoring, gasping, and choking affect your partner’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep apnea can be properly diagnosed at an overnight sleep lab that takes place at a hospital or clinic, or with an at-home sleep test. Many people opt for an at-home sleep test since they are usually more convenient, lower in cost, and cause less anxiety than overnight sleep labs at a clinic. Your doctor can provide you with more information about how to obtain and use an at-home sleep test to detect signs and symptoms of sleep apnea.

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13 thoughts on “Sleep Apnea Symptoms

  1. Maryann Reply

    I was diagnosed with OSA. Have a CPAP machine. Tried every different mask available. I feel suffocated when I use it and wind up removing the mask every night. Even used an oxeginator for awhile but it didn’t help. I am severly fatigued every single day, have all the symptoms mentioned. I am 81 yrs. old. I have been dealing with this problem for years, getting worse. I am weak these days and don’t leave my home anymore. I thought maybe I needed a BIPAP instead of a CPAP. Any suggestions? Thanks

  2. William H. Oliver, Jr. Reply

    As a Respiratory Therapist, my first visit to your website left me quite impressed – the depth, breadth, and quality of posted information is spot on. Rest assured, I will refer my patients, staff, and associated professionals to your site – a wealth of information awaits them!

  3. Toby Ryan Reply

    I didn’t realize that you may feel tired during the day if you experience certain types of sleep apnea. My brother has been having a difficult time falling asleep at night and typically has to take a nap in his car during his lunch break on weekdays. Maybe he should consider seeking professional help to determine if sleep apnea is the cause of his problems.

  4. Kate Hansen Reply

    It was really helpful when you said that morning headaches, and chest pain at night can be a sign of sleep apnea. For the past couple of months, I have been experiencing bad headaches in the morning, along with chest pain at night, and I was wondering what the issue could be. I’ll have to look into seeing a health professional about possibly having sleep apnea.

  5. Bryan Reply

    Why take this test?? Sleep is ok, day is ok, driving is ok. Driving overnight is difficult, but can be done. Normal drive time is from 2am till 8pm time bracket. There is only 11 hours driving allowed within 14hours. If there are getting too much stricter, get R2D2 units to make their deliveries.

  6. Margaret Reply

    I had no idea that morning headaches were a sign of sleep apnea. My sister snores extremely loud and always comments about her headaches in the morning. I’ll ask her about these other symptoms and make sure she sees a dentist about sleep apnea.

  7. Anonymous Reply

    My husband does not sleep allnight, he awakes exhausted. I have to talk to him on our cell phones till he reaches work and vice versa.

    We have tried a sleep study but he’s closterphobic from all thr equipment. We are trying again Sunday 2\26\17 with sedation?

    • Anonymous Reply

      I am the same way I can’t go to sleep with all those wires on me I also will never be able to use a Cpap machine

      • Anonymous Reply

        A cpap saved my life. Yes in the beginning it took some getting used to,
        But at least I came back to living again
        My sleep apnea was severe.
        It took courage….
        You must at least make an attempt
        The initial test in the sleep lab is only A test. I’ve been Using a cpap for 5 years now. I won’t even try sleeping without it.

    • Deborah Reply

      My husband is having a sleep study tonight at home! It is simply a clip on his finger which will monitor his Oxygen levels. Ask you Dr about it.

  8. Lillian Schaeffer Reply

    I like how you mentioned that sleepiness during the day can be a sign of sleep apnea. My husband has always snored really loudly, but he recently has been having a hard time staying awake for the whole day. It sounds like it could be sleep apnea, so maybe we could visit a professional to see if that’s the case.

  9. Phil Reply

    Thanks for this info on the signs of sleep apnea that nobody thinks about until it’s too late!

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