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what are the symptoms of sleep apnea

Did you know that it’s estimated over 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with about 80% of moderate and severe cases remaining undiagnosed? These frightening statistics, as well as the accurate diagnosis of the signs of this widespread but often neglected sleep disorder, demonstrate the importance of raising awareness.

Recognizing the symptoms early can lead to timely intervention. It can enhance general health and the quality of sleep. We’ll explore what are the symptoms of sleep apnea to help you understand and identify potential warning signs effectively.

What Is Sleep Apnea?


Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. These disruptions can happen hundreds of times each night, leading to poor quality of sleep and daytime fatigue. It affects millions of Americans, causing them to stop breathing for a few seconds to minutes. Often, individuals with this condition snore loudly or feel tired even after a full night’s sleep.

There are primarily two types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). It occurs when throat muscles excessively relax, leading to a blocked airway. This condition is typically characterized by loud snoring and abrupt choking noises. Notably, it can significantly disrupt your sleep, making it a matter of serious concern.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). This is a less common type that involves the central nervous system. It occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. With this type, there may not be snoring, making it harder to detect.

Both types are serious conditions that require medical attention to manage the symptoms and health risks effectively.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?


Loud Snoring


One of the most obvious symptoms of OSA is frequent loud snoring. This condition occurs because the upper airway is partially blocked during sleep, which causes the throat muscles and tissues to vibrate as air passes through. The vibrations create the sound of snoring that can be disruptive not only to the person with OSA but also to their bed partner.

Pauses in Breathing


Frequent breathing pauses, known as apneas, are a distinctive symptom of sleep apnea. These interruptions can last from a few seconds to minutes and typically occur multiple times per hour. A sleep partner may often observe this, noting that the individual briefly stops breathing and then starts again, sometimes with a gasp or choking sound. These breathing patterns can be an important indicator of sleep apnea.

Daytime Sleepiness


Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) is a significant indicator of sleep apnea, a condition that disrupts normal breathing during sleep. Despite receiving what seems like a sufficient amount of sleep, individuals with this condition often feel profoundly tired during the day. This persistent fatigue can affect their ability to concentrate. So it’s advisable to participate in daily activities and maintain overall productivity. In severe cases, EDS can even result in risky circumstances, including falling asleep while operating a vehicle.

Morning Headaches


Having headaches as you wake up, especially in the morning, is another symptom commonly linked to sleep apnea. These headaches are often caused by decreases in blood oxygen levels and increased carbon dioxide levels in the blood during sleep. This may occur as a result of an obstruction in the airway and can lead to interrupted breathing throughout the night. As a result, your body undergoes stress, which manifests as a headache upon waking.

Night Sweats


Excessive sweating during sleep, known as night sweats, can also be associated with sleep apnea. This symptom arises because the body undergoes stress each time it briefly awakens to resume breathing. Night sweats can occur even in cool sleeping environments and may be a sign that the body’s oxygen levels are fluctuating.

Dry Mouth or Sore Throat


A sore throat or dry tongue upon awakening is another typical sign of sleep apnea. This usually happens because people with sleep apnea tend to breathe through their mouths rather than their noses during sleep. This can lead to dryness and irritation of the mouth and throat. As time passes, this can cause discomfort and may even contribute to issues like bad breath and dental problems.

Mood Changes and Irritability


Individuals with untreated sleep apnea frequently exhibit erratic moods, impatience, and even symptoms of depression. The lack of restful sleep affects emotional regulation. This can make it challenging to keep an optimistic perspective and manage stress effectively. This condition not only disrupts their nightly rest but also impacts their daily functioning and overall quality of life. Over time, the chronic sleep deprivation caused by untreated sleep apnea can lead to more serious health issues.

What Are the Common Treatments For Sleep Apnea?

  • Lifestyle Changes. Implementing certain lifestyle changes can greatly affect the severity of sleep apnea. These changes include weight loss, regular exercise, and quitting smoking. Engaging in physical activity can enhance general well-being and lower the risk factors linked to sleep apnea.
  • Medications. While not typically the first line of treatment, certain medications may be prescribed to help manage sleep apnea symptoms. For example, medications that stimulate breathing can be useful for Central Sleep Apnea, though they are not a cure for the condition.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy. If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), continuous positive airway pressure devices (CPAP) are thought to be the best course of treatment. During sleep, a constant stream of air is delivered by a CPAP machine through a mask to maintain an open airway. This lowers oxygen levels, enhances oxygen quality during sleep, and helps avoid breathing pauses.
  • BiPAP Machines. Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) machines serve as an alternative to CPAP, especially for those who have difficulty exhaling against continuous pressure. BiPAP devices deliver two levels of pressure: a higher one for inhalation and a lower one for exhalation, offering more comfort during sleep.
  • Oral Appliances. Oral appliances are another treatment option, especially for those who find CPAP therapy uncomfortable. By shifting the tongue or jaw, these specially-made gadgets are worn in the mouth while sleeping to assist in maintaining an open airway. They are particularly excellent for mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea.
  • Positional Therapy. Positional therapy involves changing sleeping positions to reduce the severity of sleep apnea. For some individuals, sleeping on their back can exacerbate the condition. Special devices or pillows can help keep the person sleeping on their side, reducing airway obstruction.
  • Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV). Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV) is a newer treatment method for Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome. ASV devices monitor breathing patterns and deliver the appropriate amount of pressure to stabilize breathing throughout the night.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to treat sleep apnea. Surgical options can include removing excess tissue from the throat, correcting airway abnormalities, or repositioning the jaw. Common procedures include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), and nasal surgery to improve airflow through the nasal passages.

When to Seek Medical Help

  • Persistent and Loud Snoring. If loud snoring is persistent, especially if it disrupts your sleep or that of your bed partner, it may be more than just a nuisance. Loud snoring is a prevalent symptom of OSA and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
  • Observed Pauses in Breathing. If your sleep partner observes frequent pauses in breathing or gasping during sleep, it’s essential to seek medical advice. These pauses in breathing (apneas) are indicative of sleep apnea and need professional evaluation.
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness. If you experience Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) despite getting what you believe is a full night’s sleep, this could be a sign of sleep disruption due to sleep apnea. Daytime sleepiness can impair your ability to function effectively and safely, making it critical to address the underlying cause.
  • Morning Headaches and Mood Changes. Frequent morning headaches and mood changes such as irritability or depression can be symptoms associated with sleep apnea. Waking up with headaches and experiencing significant mood swings should prompt a visit to your healthcare provider.
  • Impact on Quality of Life. If sleep apnea symptoms are affecting your quality of life—such as difficulty concentrating, decreased productivity, relationship issues due to mood changes, or inability to stay awake during the day—it’s time to seek medical help to improve your overall health and well-being.
  • High Blood Pressure or Heart Problems. Heart disease and high blood pressure are two cardiovascular conditions that sleep apnea can exacerbate. If you have a history of these medical conditions or experience new cardiovascular symptoms. It’s important to discuss the possibility of sleep apnea with your healthcare provider.

Reclaim Your Nights: Contact Houston Biological Dentist Now!


Sleep apnea must be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Effective management can prevent serious health complications like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and daytime fatigue-related accidents. Addressing sleep apnea not only enhances sleep quality but also greatly improves overall health and quality of life.

If you or a loved one suffer from sleep apnea, consider consulting with Houston Biological DentistSpecializing in holistic and comprehensive care, we understand the critical connection between oral health and overall well-being.

Don’t let sleep apnea diminish your quality of life. Book your consultation appointment today to learn more about treatment options tailored to your needs and start your journey toward better health and restful sleep.