SLEEP APNEA SYMPTOMS




chart showing symptoms sleep apnea

What are the sleep apnea symptoms?

When it comes to sleep apnea, whether it’s obstructive or central, more often than not there is more than one sufferer. Because of the symptoms sleep apnea which we will describe below, very often the sleeping mate of the sleep apnia sufferer usually also has sleep apnia symptoms and also suffers from deprivation of sleep.

Let’s list the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Frequent cessation of breathing (apnea) during sleep. Your sleep partner may notice repeated silences from your side of the bed.
  • Choking or gasping during sleep to get air into the lungs.
  • Loud snoring.
  • Sudden awakenings to restart breathing.
  • Waking up in a sweat during the night.
  • Feeling unrefreshed in the morning after a night’s sleep.
  • Headaches, sore throat, or dry mouth in the mornings after waking up.
  • Daytime sleepiness, including falling asleep at inappropriate times, such as during driving or at work.
  • Lethargy.
  • Rapid weight gain.
  • Memory loss and learning difficulties.
  • Short attention span.
  • Heartburn.
  • Swelling of the legs if you are obese.
  • Getting up during the night to urinate (nocturia).
  • Sweating and chest pain while you are sleeping.
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia).

Now let’s list the sleep apnea symptoms that others have to live with:

  • Worrying when their loved one has an episode of not breathing (apnea), which may occur as few as 5 times an hour (mild apnea) to more than 50 times an hour (severe apnea)? Note: How many episodes you have determines how severe your sleep apnea is.
  • Loud snoring. Almost all people who have sleep apnea snore, but not all people who snore have sleep apnea.
  • Restless tossing and turning during sleep.
  • Nighttime choking or gasping spells.


Unfortunately, children can also suffer from sleep apnea symptoms. Here is a list of the sleep apnea symptoms children with sleep apnea have. Sleep apnea occurs in about 2% of children.

First thing to note is that when it comes to children, the type of symptoms sleep apnea depend on their age:

  • When children are younger than 5, symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, mouth breathing, sweating, restlessness, and continuous wakening at night.
  • When children are 5 years and older, sleep apnea symptoms include snoring (always a symptom in sleep apnea), bed wetting, bad results in school, experience growing problems as they are not as big as they should be for their age. Often children with sleep apnea will have behavior problems and a short attention span (ADD).
  • Children who have sleep apnea nearly always snore (as do adults), but they may not appear to be excessively sleepy during the day (unlike adults). The only symptom of sleep apnea in some children may be that they do not grow as quickly as they should for their age.
  • The right side of the heart often gets bigger (cor pulmonale) in children with sleep apnea. This is on top of experiencing growth problems.


More and more people are finally realizing how dangerous sleep apnea can be to their long-term health and have started reporting their sleep apnea symptoms to their physicians. We recommend speaking to your physician if you or your sleep partner experience the following symptoms sleep apnea or if they become unbearable.

  • Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself.
  • Shortness of breath that awakens you from sleep.
  • Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep.
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you are working, watching television or even driving.

One thing to do is to classify the levels of Apneas in order to see the severity of one’s sleep apnea. Below is good reference information to go by:

Mild - 5 to 19 episodes per hour

Moderate - 20 to 39 episodes per hour

Severe - more than 40 episodes per hour

Apnea episodes can last anywhere between 10 to 90 seconds each. They always finish with at least a partial awakening of the sufferer. A severe apnea patient (like yours truly) may have more than 300 episodes per night!

There are things one can do to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea. We have listed some here:

  • Discuss your sleep apnea symptoms with your doctor and ask if a sleep study is necessary.
  • A sleep study will help determine if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
  • A CPAP device will help keep the airways open to breathe while you sleep.
  • Make some lifestyle changes. Your physician may recommend losing some weight. In fact, losing ten pounds can reduce sleep apnea symptoms significantly.
  • Use an oral appliance while you sleep.
  • Undergo surgery, if necessary. A doctor will normally recommend this only for the most severe cases to remove blockages to the air passage.

Sleep apnea was cited by Reader's Digest as one of the top 10 misdiagnosed diseases. In the article entitled "10 Diseases Doctors Miss", the 10 diseases mentioned were hepatitis C, lupus, celiac disease, hemochromatosis, aneurysm, Lyme disease, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), chlamydia, and sleep apnea.

Diagnosing sleep apnea can be a bit tricky for medical professionals. They should always consider possible alternative diagnoses during the diagnostic process for sleep apnea:

  • Cheyne-Stokes respiration
  • Depression
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Narcolepsy
  • Night-time asthma
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Hypersomnia
  • Nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy
  • Other sleep disorders
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Upper airway obstruction
  • GERD
  • Asthma
  • Nocturnal seizures

When checking for a misdiagnosis of sleep apnea or confirming a diagnosis of sleep apnea, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible. These alternate diagnoses of sleep apnea may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of sleep apnea.

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