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Sleep Apnea Symptoms: Could You Have It, Too?

Sleep apnea symptoms should not be ignored, as the condition can pose a great threat to your health. It is being researched all over the world, and there is more and more knowledge about all the serious side effects the disorder brings with it.

There are two forms of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Combinations of the two can occur. The most frequent type is obstructive sleep apnea, and is caused, as the name suggests, by an obstruction in the airways during sleep. These obstructions can be caused by a variety of factors such as facial shape, being obese or overweight, alcohol consumption and much more.

Although the condition is mostly found in adults, especially men, it can also be diagnosed in children. Sleep apnea can be temporary, for example in cases where it is caused by enlarged polyps or tonsils or obesity. The severity the condition varies a lot from patient to patient, and can be worsened by external factors such as colds, stress, etc. 

Sleep apnea in itself is not a dangerous condition, however, it is proven to have a negative effect of the cardiovascular system, and thus make the risk of related diseases much higher. It is completely certain that no matter what, the condition lowers overall well being of the sufferer, and makes their everyday life more difficult. 


As we said before, it is very important to seek treatment for sleep apnea, if you suspect that you're suffering from the condition. Snoring, although it can be incredibly bothersome, is much, much more common than sleep apnea, but also the most common symptom of the illness. 


sleep apnea symptomsSnoring caused by sleep apnea is often accompanied by quiet periods of up to 60 seconds, in which the sleeper unsuccessfully tries to draw in air. Most people who have experienced sleeping next to a person with sleep apnea have heard the grunts, gasps and snorts associated with the condition. 

Not until the sleeper wakes up is air allowed through, and as apneas occur hundreds of times during the night, it is hard for sufferers to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep apnea and dizziness, fatigue and lethargy are also commonly linked together.

These are subjective and thus very hard to measure, however, it is possible to observe different reaction patterns, showing that a person does not react with sufficient alertness in certain situations. Tendencies to sleep in monotonous or undesirable situations, i.e. at meetings and when watching a movie, can also be one of the clear signs of sleep apnea.

Even if a patient does not experience falling asleep as described above, he or she may experience a lowered ability to focus in situations without physical activity or other stimulation. Many describe performing their daily tasks completely on auto-pilot, and not remembering how they did it afterwards.

Often times, the people around the patient are best at describing the symptoms, mainly because people with sleep apnea most often have no recollection of their attacks, and are not at all aware of having woken up. However, it is also often easier for friends and family to detect changes in a person’s behavior, i.e. whether they are different in mental state: grumpy, forgetful etc.

Other symptoms include:

  • Waking up at night for no apparent reason
  • Increased need to urinate during the night
  • Moderate concentration and memory issues
  • A feeling of never being fully rested, even after many hours of sleep

Less frequent symptoms include:
  • Irritability, depression caused by sleep apnea: not getting sufficient sleep can be very damaging to mental health, and make it much more difficult to face everyday life.
  • Potency issues
Diagnosis of Your Sleep Apnea Symptoms

If you have experienced one or more of the above sleep apnea symptoms and think you may have sleep apnea, you should visit a doctor to get diagnosed and determine the correct treatment.

Obstructive sleep apnea refers to conditions where the apnea is caused by obstructions in the upper airway and pharynx. This caused the flow of air to the lungs is lessened/stops due to resistance in these areas, i.e. because the soft palate falls back during sleep and hinders airflow.

Central sleep apnea is another type of sleep apnea that is caused by conditions in the brain, and also causes the flow of air to the lungs to be lessened or stopped for a short period.

No matter what type of apnea you have, it is a stressful condition for your body. It is normal for the blood pressure and pulse to fall during the night, but in people with sleep apnea these do not fall while they are sleeping. Sufferers often do not reach the deep phase of the non-REM part of the normal sleep cycle.

sleep apnea symptomsConnections between diabetes and sleep apnea, as well as between sleep apnea and high blood pressure, have been determined. If a patient is not treated for these conditions, sleep apnea can become much more severe and bring along with it very serious side effects.

The most efficient way to diagnose sleep apnea is to measure brain activity, breathing, and oxygen saturation in the blood. The latter is the most simple test to do, and normally only requires that the patient sleeps with a “clamp” on his finger. 

Cases of the type of sleep apnea in which the oxygen saturation decreases can easily be diagnosed with this type of test, while it is useless for other types of the condition.

There are other methods to determine sleep apnea that look for various factors, using measurements of a patients breathing during sleep. Others measure sleep position and restlessness during the night. One of the most common ways to determine the correct treatment for sleep apnea is to count the number of apneas a patient has during the night. These can last for 10-60 seconds and can occur 300-600 times during the night.

Useful Links:

For more information about how sleep apnea can have a strain on the heart, be sure to visit the website of the Cardiomyopathy Association. It's better to catch the symptoms early, and for that you need a complete picture.

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