Sleep apnea is the condition in which an individual simply stops breathing for short periods of time while he or she is asleep. Often, individuals suffering from sleep apnea are not even aware that they have the condition. Sleep apnea can be caused by an obstructed air way (known as obstructive sleep apnea and by far the most common form of apnea), a defect in the brain (known as central sleep apnea); or a combination of the two. The three types of apnea share similar symptoms. Snoring is perhaps the most obvious of the symptoms of sleep apnea, but there are many other conditions that may be a result of the struggle to breath throughout the sleep cycle.
Several symptoms of sleep apnea are noticeable, not to the sleep apnea sufferer himself, but rather to his spouse or others. As stated, snoring is the most noticeable symptom, particularly snoring that just will not stop, regardless of the solution the sufferer may try. Extreme restlessness while sleeping is another noticeable symptom. Sleep that is punctuated with jerky movements or constant twisting and turning is often the result when a person’s breathing is constantly interrupted.
Sporadic periods of silence from an individual while sleeping are often recognized as a symptom of sleep apnea. As apnea means the cessation of breath, this is to be expected. Along the same lines, individuals often make choking or gasping noises through the night, as they struggle to take a breath.
There are symptoms of sleep apnea that an individual may notice himself. Extreme tiredness throughout the day often accompanies sleep apnea, as a person’s body never truly attains the rest needed. A person suffering from sleep apnea may find himself actually falling asleep during the day, only for short periods of time, but rather frequently. A person may find that his or her throat is extremely dry in the morning; he also may wake up with a headache. He may also notice that he is waking up during the night to use the restroom much more than is normal. Unexplained weight gain, especially if the gain happens quickly, may be another symptom of sleep apnea.
Some symptoms bear a close resemblance to symptoms experienced by those suffering from insomnia (and in fact, insomnia is sometimes actually classified as a symptom of sleep apnea). Some of these symptoms include excessive drowsiness and extreme irritability, as well as increased anxiety. Sleep apnea may also result in the mental sluggishness so commonly experienced by individuals suffering from insomnia. A person may struggle to focus or have a hard time solving problems when they are affected by sleep apnea and the poor quality of sleep associated with the condition.
Another symptom that may result from sleep apnea is high blood pressure. Researches suggest that people who experience sleep apnea have a higher incidence of high blood pressure than individuals whose breathing is uninterrupted. Researchers also speculate that there may be a link between sleep apnea and dementia.