Sleep Apnea

Signs and Symptoms

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious breathing problem that interrupts your sleep.

The two main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are:

  • You’re very sleepy during the day, but you don’t know why.
  • You snore and have pauses in your breathing while sleeping.

Some other signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea:

  • You have high blood pressure1
  • You’re irritable.
  • You gasp or choke during sleep.
  • You’re very tired (you have fatigue).
  • You’re depressed.
  • You can’t concentrate.
  • You have morning headaches.
  • You have memory problems/ memory loss.
  • For men: you have impotence (difficulty keeping an erection)

If you think you have these signs and symptoms or if you think you have sleep apnea, see your doctor. Your doctor can learn more about your symptoms and give you a test that helps diagnose sleep apnea.

Many people have sleep apnea without knowing it. Sleep apnea can develop slowly, over time. Many people don’t recognize the signs and symptoms.

Often people go to the doctor because they don’t know why they are so tired, or because their bed partner complains that they snore too much. These are clues that a person might have sleep apnea. Family members or bed partners often pick up on the signs of sleep apnea first. Many people with sleep apnea don't know they're snoring and gasping for breath at night.

The main symptom of sleep apnea is “excessive daytime sleepiness” – you are sleepier than expected during the day.  You can share your quiz results with your doctor, who can do further tests to see if you have sleep apnea.

References: 

1. James M. Parish, Vivend Somers, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease, Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2004, Aug. 79(8) and Baguet JP, Hammer L, Levy P, Pierre H, Rossini E, Mouret S, Ormezzano O, Mallion JM, and Pepin JL. Night-time and diastolic hypertension are common and underestimated conditions in newly diagnosed apnoeic patients. J Hypertens 23: 521-527, 2005

This content was reviewed on October 15th, 2014 by The Canadian Thoracic Society's Sleep Disordered Breathing Clinical Assembly.

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Page Last Updated: 15/10/2014