Sleep Apnea Symptoms: Recognizing the Warning Signs

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where you often stop breathing during sleep. If you snore loudly and feel tired after sleeping, sleep apnea might be the cause. There are two main types of this condition. The first is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), more common, which happens when throat muscles relax and obstruct air. The second type is central sleep apnea (CSA). In CSA, the brain fails to signal the muscles that manage breathing.1 It is crucial to seek medical help if you think you have sleep apnea to avoid complications.

Key Takeaways

  • Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects breathing during sleep.
  • The two main types are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA).
  • Snoring, daytime fatigue, and breathing cessations are common symptoms of sleep apnea.
  • Men and individuals with obesity, older age, or a family history are at higher risk.
  • Seeking medical evaluation and treatment for sleep apnea is crucial to prevent complications.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder with two main types: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). It’s important to know the difference between them for the right diagnosis and treatment.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common. It happens when throat muscles relax during sleep, blocking the airway.1 This causes breathing pauses, affecting sleep and lowering oxygen levels. Obesity is a big risk for this type since extra weight can make the problem worse.1

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea is less common. It’s when the brain doesn’t control breathing signals properly.1 The person can stop trying to breathe briefly, also affecting sleep and oxygen levels. It’s often seen in older adults and those with heart issues or who had a stroke.1

Obstructive sleep apnea patients may get central sleep apnea because of their treatment. This is called “treatment-emergent central sleep apnea” or “complex sleep apnea.”1 Knowing which type a person has is key to the best treatment plan.

Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The most common signs of sleep apnea are loud snoring2, and stopped breathing during sleep, which others might notice2. You might find yourself waking up gasping for air or with a dry mouth. Morning headaches are also common. These can lead to feeling extremely tired during the day, having trouble sleeping at night, being irritable, and finding it hard to focus. Figuring out whether it’s obstructive or central sleep apnea can be tricky because their signs often overlap.

Loud Snoring

If you have sleep apnea, you might snore loudly every night. This happens when your throat closes a little, and the air that does get through causes the soft tissues there to vibrate.2

Gasping or Choking During Sleep

Some people with sleep apnea may stop breathing suddenly and then gasp or choke to start again.2 These pauses in breath can happen a lot throughout the night and ruin the chance for a good sleep.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Sleep apnea can leave you feeling very tired and drowsy during the day.2 Even with a whole night’s sleep, you might struggle to stay alert and this can affect your daily life.

Dry Mouth or Sore Throat

Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat can be a sign of sleep apnea.2 The constant cycle of breathing pauses can dry your mouth and make your throat sore.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Do you have trouble sleeping and feel tired often? Maybe you wake up every morning with a headache. Or does your mood swing from happy to sad very quickly? For some, it’s hard to remember things or focus on tasks.1 If these sound familiar, you could have sleep apnea.

With sleep apnea, you might wake up often during the night without knowing it. This makes it hard to get a good, deep sleep. So, you may feel tired and have trouble thinking during the day.2 It can really affect your life in many ways.

Restless Sleep and Insomnia

Sleep apnea stops your breathing off and on, keeping you from deep sleep. This can lead to restlessness and a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. It’s called insomnia.3 It’s important to treat sleep apnea to sleep better.

Morning Headaches

Many with sleep apnea wake up with headaches because their breathing stops at night.1 These headaches can stick around all day, making it hard to do things. By solving sleep apnea, you often solve these headaches too.3

Mood Changes and Forgetfulness

Sleep apnea can mess with your emotions and memory. You might feel more angry or sad than usual. Or find it hard to remember things and stay focused.1 This is because your brain doesn’t get the rest it needs. Fixing sleep apnea can help with these issues.3

sleep apnea symptoms

Recognizing Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea is not just for adults; it can affect kids too. Common symptoms include behavior issues and doing poorly in school.4 Kids with this problem may find it hard to focus, act out a lot, seem moody, and have trouble in school.4

It’s key for parents to know the signs of sleep apnea in their kids. They should talk about any worries with their child’s doctor.4 Getting help can make a big difference in how well a child sleeps and how they do during the day.4

See also  What Does a Sleep Apnea Headache Feel Like? Symptoms Explained

Behavior Problems

Children with sleep apnea might show many behavior issues. These could include being overly active, having big mood swings, and finding it hard to focus.4 These issues can really hurt how well they do in school and how they feel overall.4

Poor Academic Performance

Sleep apnea can also hurt how well kids do in school.4 It’s because they might not get good sleep, which makes learning, remembering things, and doing well in school tough.4

5 About 1-5% of children may have obstructive sleep apnea, say researchers.5 But, it often goes without being noticed.5 Knowing the signs and getting them checked and treated early can boost their sleep and life quality.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Being overweight is a big risk for sleep apnea.2 This happens because fat can block the throat during rest.1 As people get older, their throat muscles weaken.16 This might make breathing harder at night.

Anatomical Factors

A small throat, big tonsils, or a stuffy nose can also lead to sleep apnea.6 These issues make it tough to breathe while sleeping, increasing the chance of having the condition.

Gender and Family History

Men are more likely than women to suffer from sleep apnea.12 A family history of the condition increases the risk too.16 Some diseases like heart failure, high blood pressure, and diabetes can also make it more likely.1

Knowing these risks can help people understand their chances of getting sleep apnea. This insight may prompt them to seek help earlier, reducing the risks that come with the condition.

Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious health issue. If not treated, it can cause major problems.1 This includes issues in the heart like high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.7

Untreated sleep apnea raises the risk of heart and stroke diseases.8 People who use a CPAP machine have less chance of stroke and heart attack. Their blood sugar levels are also better.

Cardiovascular Problems

1 Obstructive sleep apnea can make your blood oxygen levels suddenly drop. This can raise your blood pressure and stress your heart.7 Stuides have connected this to high blood pressure, showing it’s a serious problem.

Metabolic Disorders

1 Sleep apnea can up your risk for getting insulin resistance and diabetes.7 Research shows it can affect how your body handles sugar, leading to a higher diabetes risk.7 Also, severe sleep apnea can raise glycated hemoglobin, even if you don’t have diabetes.

Complications with Medications and Surgery

1 After surgery, people with sleep apnea might have more complications. This is because they could have trouble breathing.1 Partners of those with sleep apnea may have to sleep separately to get rest.

Treating sleep apnea early is important. It can help avoid these dangerous complications.

consequences of untreated sleep apnea

Sleep Apnea and COVID-19

Recent studies suggest a link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and severe COVID-19.9 They show that untreated OSA might make COVID-19 worse, requiring hospital care. This is because both conditions can lower oxygen levels in the blood, causing hypoxemia.9

Untreated OSA also raises heart problems like high blood pressure and stroke risks. These issues can make COVID-19 effects more severe.9 One study found that nearly 9% of adults had OSA before getting COVID-19.10 They also found that the risk of Long COVID was almost 75% higher in these people than those without OSA.10

Women with OSA faced even higher Long COVID risks than men with OSA. They were about 30% more likely to have these long-term symptoms.10

We’re still figuring out how sleep apnea and COVID-19 are connected. But, the data so far really stresses the need to treat sleep apnea well, especially during this pandemic.9 More studies may show exactly how sleep apnea and COVID-19 affect each other, including the long-term recovery impacts.9

About 1 in 8 adults deals with obstructive sleep apnea. It’s often not diagnosed.11 The NIH RECOVER Initiative, worth $1.15 billion, aims to understand COVID-19 recovery and risks of long-lasting effects like long COVID.11 This work shows that addressing sleep apnea is crucial in dealing with COVID-19. It could greatly affect the disease’s seriousness and its lasting effects.

Prevalence of OSA among adultsAbout 1 in 8 adults have obstructive sleep apnea, and it is often underdiagnosed.11
Likelihood of developing long COVID for adults with OSAAdults with obstructive sleep apnea were up to 75% more likely to develop long COVID compared to those without the sleep disorder.11
Prevalence of OSA in children vs. adultsAmong adults, obstructive sleep apnea occurred in about 5% of those studied, while it was present in less than 2% of children.11
Percentage of adults suspected to have developed long COVIDApproximately 5% of adults in the N3C study, 17% in the PCORnet study, and less than 5% of children in PEDSnet were suspected to have developed long COVID.11
Increased likelihood of long COVID for adults with OSAAfter controlling for various factors, adults with obstructive sleep apnea in the N3C study were 75% more likely to experience long COVID, whereas in PCORnet, the increased odds were 12%.11
Gender differences in long COVID risk with OSAWomen in the N3C study had an 89% increased likelihood of developing long COVID if they had obstructive sleep apnea, compared to a 59% increased chance for men.11
See also  How Long Can You Live With Sleep Apnea?

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

If you show sleep apnea signs, your doctor may suggest a test.12 The main test is polysomnography, or a sleep study, done in a lab.12 It tracks your breathing, oxygen, heart rate, and more while you sleep.

Polysomnography (Sleep Study)

A polysomnogram checks many body functions during sleep.12 It looks at heart, lung, and brain activity, how you breathe, and your blood oxygen.13 How often sleep apnea is found from this test matters a lot.13 Some patients might need more testing after being diagnosed.

13 Before a sleep study, doctors might say to stop some medicines. They may also tell you to skip caffeine and alcohol on the test day.13 They use this info to see if tests done at home are as good as those in sleep centers. They also check where tests are best done – in labs, at home, or in hospitals.

13 During the sleep study, many devices are used, like EEG and EKG machines.13 How long it takes to review the results, and what these results show, are also key. They look at your sleep stages, how you breathe, if you snore, and if your limbs move a lot.

Home Sleep Apnea Testing

Some may get to do a sleep test at home.12 You’ll use a small machine that tracks your breathing all night.12 It checks heart rate, blood oxygen, air flowing in and out, and patterns of breathing for apnea signs.

The test results, from home or a lab, figure out your sleep apnea type and how bad it is.14 The level of sleep apnea depends on how often you stop breathing each hour. This helps pick the best treatment.14

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

If you have sleep apnea, there are many ways to treat it. The most common way is using a CPAP machine. This machine gently blows air into your airways, keeping them open all night.12 It uses a mask over your nose, or both your nose and mouth, to prevent your throat from collapsing.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

CPAP is known as the best treatment for sleep apnea. It’s great for both types of sleep apnea, obstructive and central.12 The machine helps reduce pauses in breathing and increases oxygen levels while you sleep.12 Many people find their sleep and life quality getting better with CPAP.

Oral Appliances

If you don’t like using a CPAP machine, oral appliances might be for you. These are specially made mouthpieces that keep your throat open while you sleep.15 They’re more convenient and comfy than a CPAP machine for some people.15


When other treatments don’t work, surgery could be an option.12 Surgeons can fix physical issues in your throat that cause sleep apnea. They might remove or shrink throat tissues, or reposition your jaw. In rare cases, they do a tracheostomy.12 These surgeries aim to make your breathing better and reduce sleep interruptions.

Choosing the right treatment for sleep apnea depends on your symptoms, how serious it is, and what you prefer.12 Your healthcare provider can help you find the best plan. They’ll work with you to manage your sleep apnea effectively.12

Sleep Apnea and Relationships

Sleep apnea can really affect personal relationships, especially for the partner who sleeps beside the affected person.16 The loud snoring, choking, and constant waking up can stop the partner from sleeping well.16 This leads to being tired and grumpy during the day. It might cause the partner to sleep in another room just to get some quality rest.16 It’s key to address these issues to manage sleep apnea together.

Impact on Bed Partners

17 Across a study, 63% of those with sleep apnea said it caused problems in their relationships.17 And 69% felt less desire for sex.17 Almost half faced issues with getting sexually aroused, and 29% found it hard to orgasm.17 Strain can be high, as over half in a 2019 study wanted to talk about sex with their partner but avoided it. They worried it might hurt feelings or be awkward.17

17 Surveys involving 100 mental health experts showed communication problems as the top predictor of divorce.17 It shows just how crucial it is to work on the relationship when one partner has sleep apnea.17 This condition can greatly affect the stability of a marriage.

16 It’s crucial to support each other with sleep apnea’s challenges.16 Open talks and working on lifestyle changes together can make a big difference. This includes keeping a healthy routine and setting up a sleep-friendly space. It benefits both partners.16

Living with Sleep Apnea

Getting used to life with sleep apnea can be tough, but there are ways to handle it well.18 It’s key to keep your weight in check, especially if you’re overweight or obese. Losing just 10% of your body weight can make a big difference with sleep apnea.18 Changing your habits like not drinking alcohol before bed and making sure your sleep area is comfy can also cut down on sleep apnea signs.

See also  How is VA Disability Rating for Sleep Apnea Determined?

Lifestyle Changes

Simple lifestyle tweaks can really help with sleep apnea. Losing weight, trying new sleeping positions, and using special nose sprays might even make the condition go away.18 These small changes can really enhance your health and keep sleep apnea under control.

Ongoing Management

Keeping sleep apnea in check over time is really important.18 If your doctor has given you a CPAP machine or a mouthpiece, use it like they say. These tools can work well for different types of sleep apnea.18 It’s also crucial to see your healthcare provider regularly. They can check how you’re doing and tweak your treatment as needed.18 With the right care, living with sleep apnea can be manageable, and you can stay healthy and happy.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The common signs of [sleep apnea] are loud snoring and stopping breathing during sleep.12 You might feel very tired during the day2.

You could wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat. Restless sleep, morning headaches, and mood changes are also signs12. These symptoms can be different for each person. Yet, they all tell us to see a doctor. It’s key to notice these signs early for proper care.


Sleep19 apnea is a critical sleep disorder. It can be life-threatening if not treated early on. Knowing the signs, risks, and dangers of untreated sleep apnea is key. It helps people seek medical help and deal with the issue.20

Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Treatments may involve CPAP, oral devices, or surgery. Managing sleep apnea greatly lowers health risks and improves life quality.20,19 Tackling sleep apnea is vital for good health and life enjoyment.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is quite common. It affects nearly 1 billion people worldwide. About 425 million adults have moderate to severe OSA. This means they have 15 or more sleeping interruptions an hour.19

In the U.S., OSA is seen in 25% to 30% of men and 9% to 17% of women. It’s even more common in Hispanic, Black, and Asian groups.19 As obesity rates climb, so does OSA, affecting between 14% and 55% of people.19 It’s vital to understand and deal with this health issue for better well-being.

It’s important to know the symptoms and risks of sleep19 apnea. Being informed helps you address the problem and avoid severe outcomes.20 With the right steps, managing sleep apnea is possible. It lowers the risk of heart problems and improves life quality.


What are the main symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea shows signs like loud snoring and gasping during sleep. You may feel sleepy during the day. Dry mouth or a sore throat when you wake up is common.Other symptoms include having a restless sleep and insomnia. Morning headaches and changes in mood happen too.

What are the different types of sleep apnea?

The two main types of sleep apnea are obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when throat muscles relax, blocking air. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is when the brain doesn’t signal the breathing muscles correctly.

How does sleep apnea affect children?

In kids, sleep apnea might cause behavior issues and trouble at school. They can have problems focusing and show moody, hyperactive behaviors.Learning and doing well at school can be hard for children with sleep apnea.

What are the risk factors for developing sleep apnea?

Factors like being overweight or old, having a narrow airway, and being male raise your risk for sleep apnea. Enlarged tonsils, nasal issues, and a family history of the condition can also increase your chances.

What are the potential consequences of untreated sleep apnea?

Not treating sleep apnea can lead to serious issues like heart disease and stroke. It’s linked to type 2 diabetes and can make surgery riskier.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Polysomnography is the main test for sleep apnea. It’s a sleep study done in a lab. Some people can also do a home sleep study using special equipment overnight.

What are the treatment options for sleep apnea?

The top treatment is CPAP, a machine that keeps your airways open with air pressure. Oral devices or surgery can also help, depending on the case.

How can sleep apnea affect personal relationships?

Sleep apnea can strain relationships, especially for the partner who shares the bed. The loud snoring, choking, and constant waking up can keep them from sleeping well.This lack of deep sleep can lead to being tired and grumpy during the day.

How can individuals with sleep apnea manage their condition?

Lifestyle changes, like keeping a healthy weight, not drinking near bedtime, and good sleep habits, can help. Using a CPAP or oral device regularly as advised is key to managing the symptoms and avoiding issues.

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