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Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms

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This information was reviewed and approved by Sheila Tsai, MD (3/1/2017).

In obstructive sleep apnea, the airway narrows or closes during sleep. This can lead to loud snoring and pauses in breathing.

These pauses in breathing can occur hundreds of times a night in severe cases. Many people with OSA are not aware that they have a sleep disorder, because they do not report daytime sleepiness or are not aware of snoring or pauses in breathing during sleep. Many times it is a family member or bed partner that notices these symptoms.

The frequent interruptions of restorative sleep caused by OSA can result in unrestful sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness and, in some cases, early morning headaches. Left untreated, OSA may lead to serious medical problems. These include heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.

Children with OSA, on the other hand, may become hyperactive, rather than sleepy, during the day. This can cause problems with their performance at school.

Like people with obstructive sleep apnea, those with central sleep apnea may also sleep poorly and be sleepy during the day.

The symptoms below can indicate many sleep disorders. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, discuss your sleeping problems or concerns with your health care provider:

  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure

  • Excessive sleepiness or fatigue during the day

  • Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, waking frequently during the night, waking too early and not being able to fall back asleep or waking unrefreshed

  • Loud snoring

  • Pauses in breathing or gasping for breath during sleep, as reported by others

  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems

  • Irritability or depression

  • Morning headaches

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