Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have sleep apnea if you snore and you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep.

Sleep apnea occurs in two main types: obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax, and central sleep apnea which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Additionally, some people have complex sleep apnea, which is a combination of both.

Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap, sometimes making the type of sleep apnea more difficult to determine. The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
  • Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea.
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)

When to see a doctor
Consult a medical professional if you experience, or if your partner observes the following:

  • Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself
  • Shortness of breath that awakens you from sleep
  • Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you’re working, watching television or even driving.

Many people don’t think of snoring as a sign of something potentially serious, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. But be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience loud snoring, especially snoring that’s punctuated by periods of silence.

Ask you doctor about any sleep problems that leaves you chronically fatigued, sleepy and irritable. Excessive daytime drowsiness (hypersomnia) may be due to other disorders, such as narcolepsy.