Sleep apnea symptoms to watch out for

sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person experiences apnea during sleep. These pauses last 10 seconds or more and can occur repeatedly throughout the night.

This irregular breathing and lack of oxygen can lead to a range of symptoms, from snoring to daytime sleepiness to depression. It also puts a person at higher risk for other health complications, such as high blood pressure, stroke, eye disease, and even death.

This article discusses the symptoms and risk factors for sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

People with sleep apnea may experience as many as hundreds of pauses in breathing during sleep.

During these pauses, the heart rate drops and the body is starved of oxygen. The body’s startle reflex then awakens the person, which usually sounds like gasping or loud snoring. This can lead to a rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

This process puts stress on the body. In addition to disrupted sleep, this can lead to thickening of blood vessel walls over time, Arrhythmiaand cardiac dysfunction.

There are different types of sleep apnea, including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: This is the most common type, and there is a complete or partial physical obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, leading to an episode of sleep apnea.
  • Central sleep apnea: In this type, the brain stem does not properly trigger the body to breathe. Although there is no physical blockage, the person will still experience an episode of sleep apnea. This is more often reported as insomnia or nighttime awakenings.
  • Complex sleep apnea: Also called therapeutic sleep apnea, when a person with obstructive sleep apnea goes on to develop central sleep apnea as a result of a treatment called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) , this type of sleep apnea occurs.
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Prevalence of sleep apnea

It is estimated that 25% of men and 10% of women develop sleep apnea. It is most common in older men who are obese, but it can happen to anyone, including babies and children.


Both acute and chronic effects of sleep apnea can lead to a variety of symptoms. People with more than 30 apnea per hour are at higher risk for chronic symptoms.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • snoring
  • Witnessing sleep apnea
  • tired during the day
  • Frequent awakenings at night, including sudden awakenings from wheezing or choking
  • wake up with dry mouth
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • headache
  • molar
  • decreased libido
  • Frequent need to urinate at night
  • Palpitations or a racing heart, especially at night

Symptoms of sleep apnea in children

Children with sleep apnea may experience different symptoms than adults. These can include:

  • Wetting the bed
  • mouth breathing
  • learning or behavioral disorder
  • Daytime fatigue at school that may be wrongly labeled as ‘lazy’
  • Excessive need for naps

early warning sign

Because people with sleep apnea are already asleep when their breathing breaks, it can be difficult for them to recognize it.

So, for most people with sleep apnea, the earliest warning sign they notice is increased daytime sleepiness. They may notice this because it affects them:

  • mood
  • attention
  • ability to concentrate
  • working performance
  • interpersonal relationship

Bedridden partners and family members should also be aware of the warning signs of sleep apnea. Loud, chronic snoring is an early warning sign of sleep apnea, although not all people who snore have sleep apnea.

Apnea, wheezing or choking episodes during sleep, and sudden awakenings are other warning signs to look out for.

risk factor

There are some well-known risk factors for sleep apnea. Some of them are modifiable, which means you can change them. Others are not modifiable, which means you may be born with a risk factor (such as biological sex) or unable to change it (such as age).

Unmodifiable sleep apnea risk factors include:

  • older
  • designated male at birth
  • Be Black, Hispanic, or Native American
  • family history of sleep apnea
  • Certain genes that affect obesity, inflammation, and the structure of the face and skull
  • larger neck size

Modifiable risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • obesity
  • alcohol intake
  • smokes
  • lack of exercise
  • unhealthy eating patterns

when to see a doctor

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health consequences, including:

  • hypertension
  • stroke
  • Arrhythmia
  • heart failure
  • diabetes
  • enlarged heart
  • heart attack

Sleep apnea can also be fatal. Therefore, if you think you may have sleep apnea, it is imperative to seek diagnosis and treatment.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any symptoms or early warning signs of sleep apnea. For example, if your sleeping partner notices that you are snoring or gasping loudly during sleep, mention it to your provider.

Snoring and sleep apnea

Not everyone with sleep apnea snore, especially those with central sleep apnea. Therefore, it is also important to mention any daytime fatigue or difficulty concentrating to your healthcare provider.


Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that most likely affects older men who are obese, but can occur in anyone, including women, children and infants. Symptoms are caused by the effects of interrupted breathing during sleep. These include snoring, choking or gasping, insomnia, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and more. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications, so it’s important to catch symptoms early and communicate them to your healthcare provider.

VigorTip words

Experiencing sleep apnea can be scary for you and your partner, especially when it’s associated with serious health complications. However, there are many effective treatments for sleep apnea, including controlled lifestyle changes. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms of sleep apnea.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will you die from sleep apnea?

    Yes, sleep apnea can be fatal. This is usually due to health complications from untreated sleep apnea, including respiratory complications or cardiac death from arrhythmias. A recent study found that sleep apnea patients treated with CPAP had a 5.63-fold lower risk of death than non-CPAP users.

  • Can sleep apnea be cured?

    In some mild cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes can eliminate the episode. There are also many well-researched sleep apnea treatments, ranging from medications to machines to surgery to positional therapy, that can eliminate symptoms.

  • What does sleep apnea sound like?

    A sleep apnea episode sounds like a period of silence (when a person stops breathing), followed by a sudden panting or choking as the person wakes up and starts breathing again. It may also sound like loud, sudden, or chronic snoring.