Sleep Apnea Symptoms: 7 Serious Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea

by | Last updated Nov 4, 2021

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Did you know that 37% of the population suffers from sleep apnea? How can you tell if you’re one of them? The signs you might have sleep apnea are more obvious than you may realize.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which the air passage becomes obstructed by the soft tissue of the throat and mouth during sleep. It can lead to serious long-term health problems and may require the sleep apnea sufferer to wear a breathing apparatus to bed.

Curious if you or your loved one has sleep apnea? Read on, as we’ll discuss some of the most serious signs and symptoms of sleep apnea in this article.

No matter how many of these signs or symptoms you have, if you’re worried about sleep apnea, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor or a sleep specialist.

1. Do You Pause or Experience Lapses in Breathing During Sleep?

Of course, this may be difficult to notice yourself. But a family member or your partner may have noticed gasping, choking or lapses in your breathing. 

You may also find that you are regularly waking up throughout the night? This could be caused by sleep apnea. When your air passage is blocked, your body can’t get enough oxygen to function properly, so the brain releases epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline, which can wake you up. 

However, the burst of epinephrine doesn’t wake everyone. Some people wake up just enough to clear the obstruction and fall back asleep. They might not even be awake enough to ever remember it happening, but the cycle of obstructed breathing, low oxygen and being chemically awoken throughout the night can leave you feeling tired the next day.  

2. Are You Always Tired?

Are you someone who wakes up tired, falls asleep during meetings yet gets 8 hours of sleep every night? 

If you’re always tired even though you always try to get a good night’s sleep, it could be a sign that you suffer from sleep apnea. Your sleep apnea may not fully wake you up, but your internal bodily chemical reactions prevent you from getting restful sleep as it works to keep your airway clear. Those reactions are releasing adrenaline which keeps your body in a constant fight or flight state, leaving you exhausted the next day. 

If you have sleep apnea, you will likely experience excessive daytime sleepiness as a result, which means waking up is particularly hard and you regularly want naps.

3. Do You Suffer from Anxiety or Depression?

Depression is a very serious symptom of sleep apnea. Up to 15% of people living with untreated depression are at risk of suicide. Sleep disorders and mental disorders feed off each other, often making both problems worse. If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, it could be a sign of sleep apnea. 

Speaking to your physician as soon as possible about your mental health could be the best decision you ever make. Even if your depression is not related to sleep apnea, your doctor can help you recover and go on to lead a healthy, happy life.

Related: The Surprising Connection Between Sleep And Mental Health

4. Do You Snore?

If you sleep next to someone else, you’re likely aware of whether you snore or not as they will tell you!

Did you know that snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea? In fact, it is the most common symptom.

If your snoring is chronic, it could show a blockage or problem in your respiratory airways. 

Although not everyone that snores has sleep apnea, 80% of people who do have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). All snoring is a sign of a blocked airway and should be discussed with a doctor or a sleep specialist who is trained to identify whether further evaluation is needed.  

5. Do You Have High Blood Pressure?

If you have sleep apnea, your blood pressure will spike when your oxygen levels decrease during the night. Your body has to work hard to clear the obstruction during sleep. It does this by releasing norepinephrine (adrenaline). Norepinephrine increases blood pressure in the body, effectively spiking blood pressure each time an obstruction occurs at night. 

Having high blood pressure can lead to greater health risks like stroke or heart attack, heart failure, an aneurysm, narrowed blood vessels in your eyes, or weakened blood vessels in your kidneys. 

Treating your high blood pressure and sleep apnea can help you avoid these complications. 

If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to get it checked out by a medical professional.

6. Do You Wake Up with a Headache and Dry Mouth?

Waking up every morning with a headache and a dry mouth is a sign of sleep apnea.

You’ll find that many people suffering from sleep apnea also suffer from headaches due to a lack of oxygen during sleep. 

Constant snoring can dry out your mouth and/or give you a sore throat. So if you’re waking up in the morning with a pain in your head or a pain in your neck, it might be because you’re suffering from sleep apnea. 

7. Are You Overweight?

If you are overweight you are more likely to have sleep apnea. Fatty tissue builds up around the throat and will press on the windpipe during sleep, obstructing the flow of air. You can measure your neck as one indication you’re at risk of developing sleep apnea. If you measure over 16 inches, you are at risk and should consider seeing a doctor and focus on losing weight. 

Additionally, sleep apnea can lead to weight gain. Poor quality sleep increases the hormones that make you hungry and decreases the hormones that make you feel full. Treating sleep apnea helps people lose weight, and losing weight can reduce the severity of sleep apnea. 

Worried About the Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea?

Up to 90% of sleep apnea cases can go undiagnosed because people do not seek testing and diagnosis. Sleep apnea that goes undiagnosed will disrupt your life and even shorten it. So, if you’re struggling with your health, or are experiencing one or more of the signs above, it’s time to reach out to a sleep specialist for an evaluation. A better night’s sleep is within reach.

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