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10 Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea


Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. It can be potentially dangerous and life-threatening. Your breathing stops and starts repeatedly. With sleep apnea, you may have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths lasting a few seconds to minutes and happening multiple times while you sleep.

Sleep apnea is a common condition with more than 200,000 cases diagnosed each year in the United States. You are at greater risk if you are older or overweight, an it’s more common in men. Treatment can include lifestyle changes, including weight loss, and using a breathing assistance device at night, including a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Symptom 1: Snoring

Do you frequently snore loudly while you sleep? Snoring occurs when your tongue and upper throat meet your soft palate and uvula in the collapsible part of your airway.

Is your snoring actually a sign of sleep apnea?

Symptom 2: Insomnia

Do you have trouble falling asleep? Staying asleep? Do you have insomnia? Experience sleep deprivation?

Sleep apnea can prevent you from sleeping well.

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Symptom 3: Headaches

Do you have headaches, especially in the morning, when you wake up?

According to the Alaska Sleep Clinic, “Low oxygen levels initiate the widening of blood vessels and can cause vascular headaches. Along with excessive daytime drowsiness, headaches are usually the symptoms that sleep apnea sufferers complain the most about as they may not be aware that they have symptoms of snoring or breaks in breathing.”

Symptom 4: Choking

Do you make choking or gasping sounds when you sleep? Choking or gasping for air while sleeping is sometimes noticed by a concerned bed partner. They may try to wake you up. If you sleep alone, try recording yourself to determine if you make such sounds while asleep.

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On Patient.info, one sufferer stated: “I'll go to sleep at night, and a few hours later I'll wake up gasping for air, like I'm being suffocated.  My breaths are extremely short, and it feels like I'm unable to get enough oxygen, which wakes me up. It's very startling and keeps me awake for hours after it happens, with the dyspnea even more aggravated. I haven't spoken to my cardiologist yet but after my workup, he seemed to think there was nothing wrong with my heart. However, this new addition to my symptoms has me quite scared.”

Symptom 5: Silent Pauses

Are there any silent pauses in breathing when you are sleeping? What about episodes of no breathing, breathing through the mouth, or loud breathing?

With sleep apnea, snoring is sometimes followed by silent breathing pauses or choking and gasping sounds. Breathing pauses occur when the muscles in your throat relax and tissues close in and block your airway.

Symptom 6: Fatigue

Do you feel tired, even after a full night's sleep? Do you experience excessive daytime sleepiness?

On SleepApnea.org, one patient posted: “I was finally diagnosed with sleep apnea in 1993, the result of my spouse's complaints about my snoring, but it was not appropriately treated until four years later. Symptoms of my apnea included daytime sleep attacks and intense fatigue, depression, weight gain, memory problems, inability to concentrate, and more.”

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Symptom 7: Depression

Sleep disorders and depression seem to go together. Depression can cause sleep issues and sleep disorders can cause depressive disorders. Depression that comes with sleep apnea can be minimized by using a CPAP machine.

According to Medical News Today, “Around 73% of people with sleep apnea were found to have depressive symptoms in a new study, suggesting the sleep condition could be misdiagnosed as depression.”

Symptom 8: Dry Mouth/Throat

Is your mouth or throat dry?  A dry mouth is due to your mouth not producing enough saliva for proper lubrication. A dry mouth or throat can be the result of using a CPAP machine for sleep apnea.

According to The CPAP Shop, “Dry mouth is a normal occurrence for people who just start out on CPAP therapy because they are not used to air blowing in to the throat to hold open. Dry mouth is exacerbated for people who wear nasal CPAP mask and whose jaw drops open during sleep. Not only does this create a much less efficient therapy because of leakage, it also causes dry mouth.”

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Symptom 9: Mood Swings

Does your mood change often? Are you irritable? Stressed? Depressed? Issues with your sleep can definitely make you moody!

According to a posting on CPAPtalk.com, “Personality and mood changes are one of the harder aspects of sleep apnea to deal with…Others often don't understand or believe is a result of sleep disordered breathings.”

Symptom 10: Weight Gain

Have you gained weight recently? Maybe it is because of a lack of sleep? Sleep deficiency due to sleep apnea can lead to weight gain. If your body is deprived of sleep, then calories are not burned but stored as fat.

However, if you lose weight, or have surgery done to remove excess tissue from your throat, then you may cure yourself of sleep apnea.

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