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.
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.
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:
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:
Those with central nervous system problems may experience other symptoms. These additional symptoms may include:
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.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.