7 Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea

  • man sitting on edge of bed
    Struggling With Sleep?
    Constantly feeling tired might be related to more than a poor night’s rest. It could be sleep apnea, a disorder that disrupts your breathing as you sleep, and a condition many people don’t even realize they have. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause an array of health problems, including cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and exhaustion-related accidents. How can you tell the difference between a restless night and actual sleep apnea? If you’re suffering from any of the following symptoms, ask your doctor about the disorder and whether you may need treatment.

  • man snoring in bed
    1. Snoring Loudly
    People suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type, often snore loudly. If you have the disorder, your body has to work harder to push air through your airway, resulting in loud snores—up to 300 times per night. While snoring isn’t always an indicator of sleep apnea, bringing up a snoring problem to your doctor can help you determine if it’s related to the disorder and, if so, what your treatment options are.

  • Woman in bed
    2. Choking and Gasping During Sleep
    When you stop breathing during sleep, your body often responds by gasping for air—a jarring cycle that can repeat as many as 30 times per hour. The good news is these sounds are hard to miss, so it’s likely a bedmate would notice if you’re doing it. If you learn that you’re gasping, talk to your doctor. Going without oxygen is not only bad for your sleep quality, but it puts unhealthy physical strain on your body.

  • man-sitting-up-in-bed-having-trouble-sleeping
    3. Waking Up Breathless
    In sleep apnea, the upper passages of your airway close off, blocking your breathing. When this happens, it can leave you waking up with a start, out of breath. While you may not notice your own snoring, this abrupt, breathless awakening can also be a signal that you’re experiencing sleep apnea. If this happens to you on a regular basis—not just after an occasional bad dream—it could be a symptom to discuss with your doctor.

  • overweight woman
    4. Obesity
    Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight. In fact, people who are obese are twice as likely to develop the disorder than normal-weight adults. This is because carrying extra body weight can invite fat deposits to form around your upper airway, which can obstruct your breathing once you fall asleep and the muscles around your tongue and throat relax. Your doctor can examine whether this is happening and figure out a treatment plan to restore your sleep.

  • Male taking blood pressure
    5. High Blood Pressure
    You can develop high blood pressure from sleep apnea. Throughout the night, frequent stops in breathing repeatedly deprive your body of oxygen. As this happens, the sudden drop in oxygen levels increases your blood pressure; your system has to work harder to get the air it needs, which puts a significant strain on your cardiovascular system. Your doctor can help you figure out if sleep apnea is contributing to your high blood pressure or to other cardiovascular issues.

  • Blonde man rubbing eyes under eyeglasses
    6. Chronic Fatigue
    Nights filled with gasping, snoring and stirring make it extremely difficult to wake up rested. If you have untreated sleep apnea, you aren’t able to achieve the deep sleep you need. If you feel tired all the time—despite going to bed and getting up at a reasonable hour—it could be a sign of sleep apnea. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health issues, including inattentiveness, irritably and a higher likelihood of falling asleep in dangerous situations, such as while driving.

  • senior woman with head pain
    7. Waking Up With Symptoms
    Commonly waking up with a headache, dry mouth or sore throat could be a sign of sleep apnea, too. It’s common for people suffering from the disorder to experience headaches upon waking, which are related to the poor quality of sleep and stress put on your body as it struggles for oxygen through the night. A dry mouth and sore throat can also be post-sleep signs that you were struggling to breathe while you slept.

  • female doctor comforting male patient
    Treating Sleep Apnea
    Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires an accurate diagnosis and long-term management. If you’re experiencing some of the above symptoms, your doctor can order a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea, and what treatment is best for you. Lifestyle changes—losing weight, sleeping on your side, or avoiding alcohol and sedatives—can help. For more severe or chronic symptoms, treatments include machines that help you breathe through the night, oral appliances that help keep your mouth (and airway) open, and—in rare cases—surgery to remove the tissue that’s interfering with normal breathing.

7 Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea

About The Author

Allison Firestone has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade. She is currently working on her doctorate in education, specializing in disability, learning, and childhood mental health. She has a master’s in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley and a master’s in special education from the University of Oregon.
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  7. Snoring and Sleep Apnea. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/snoring-and-sleep-apnea
  8. What is Sleep Apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea

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Last Review Date: 2018 Oct 18
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