Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep apnea symptoms are characterized by a disruption in sleep due to the cessation of breathing during sleep.


Periods of pause or cessation in breathing during sleep is called sleep apnea. It usually occurs in adults but sometimes occurs in children. Diagnosis of sleep apnea is mainly based on the patient’s medical history. However, several tests exist that may be used in confirming the diagnosis. Sleep apnea may be treated through surgery or non-surgical methods (See: Sleep Apnea Treatment).

“Apnea” is a medical term used to describe the time wherein a reduction or cessation in breathing occurs. When a person ceases to breathe for a couple of seconds, apnea occurs. Apnea may also include an absolute airflow stoppage. It is also a term used for the drop in the oxygen levels in the blood.

Apnea commonly occurs when a person is asleep. During this time, sleep may be disrupted due to low blood oxygen levels because of problems with breathing. This may cause the person to wake up or come to a shallow level of sleep from a deep sleep. The severity of apnea is determined by the apnea index. The higher the apnea index, the more severe the condition is.

What are the Types of Apnea?

Three types of apnea exist. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea, then central sleep apnea, and then a mixture of both. Central sleep apnea is a type of apnea wherein the problem occurs in the brain. The brain in this type of apnea fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing, which means the muscle’s ability to breathe ceases. Another type of apnea, wherein an obstruction occurs in the airway, therefore, preventing the entry as well as the exit of air, is called obstructive sleep apnea. In this type of apnea, the brain functions normally and is able to send signals to muscles for breathing. When a problem occurs both in the brain and the airway, this type of apnea is called mixed sleep apnea.

What are Sleep Apnea Symptoms?

Identifying sleep apnea symptoms alone can be hard work. This is because most symptoms occur during sleep. However, if you have a partner sleeping with you, you can ask your partner to do some observations of you during your sleep. Furthermore, ask him to record everything he finds abnormal.

Major sleep apnea symptoms would include daytime sleepiness because of the disruption in the sleep caused by sleep apnea. The patient may have difficulty concentrating, thinking, or working well during the day. This is very dangerous because the lack of concentration in performing a task may cause accidents while driving or in the patient’s workplace. Snoring may also occur because of the obstruction in the airway.

As a result of sleep deprivation, fatigue, irritability, frequent naps, insomnia, and headaches are other symptoms of sleep apnea.

Complications of Sleep Apnea

Untreated sleep apnea may later cause complications such as: hypertension, pulmonary hypertension, insulin resistance, heart failure, and even death.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, and other heart problems may arise because of sleep apnea. The low level or oxygen caused by breathing cessation causes stress on the heart. The low-oxygen saturation levels in the blood cause the nervous system to act on the problem. To further distribute oxygen to the body, the nervous system sends signals to cause the constriction of the blood vessels. This then causes the blood pressure to rise. This makes the heart work harder which is supposed to rest during sleep.

It is said that the risk for congestive heart failure and stroke (See: Symptoms of a Stroke) increases in patients with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can also cause sudden death as the risk for accidents increases in patients with sleep apnea because of daytime sleepiness. This may affect the patient as well as their loved ones.

What are the Causes of Sleep Apnea and Who are at Risk?

Sleep apnea can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter to what age group you belong, gender, or race. However, certain conditions may be associated with either central sleep apnea or obstruction sleep apnea.

Developing sleep apnea symptoms increases in people who are overweight. It also usually affects men more than women. The risk of developing sleep apnea, in addition, increases as one gets older. Pregnancy and women who are experiencing menopause may also develop the disorder. It is also said that a person who has relatives with sleep apnea is more likely to develop the disorder.

Sleep apnea symptoms are also associated with the person’s physical attributes. People who have small noses, mouths, or throats are more likely to develop sleep apnea. A receding chin, deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, or a thick neck (See: neck pain relief) they are also prone to have the disorder. People whose throat muscles (See: Throat cancer symptoms) tend to relax during sleep may also be the cause of breathing difficulties. Furthermore, other illnesses, such as allergies that cause congestion in the airway, are also contributing factors in the development of the disorder.

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