Major warning signs
- Loud and chronic snoring almost every night
- Choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep
- Pauses in breathing
- Waking up at night feeling short of breath
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue, no matter how much time you spend in bed
Other warning signs
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Insomnia or nighttime awakenings; restless or fitful sleep
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Going to the bathroom frequently during the night
- Uncharacteristic moodiness, irritability, or depression
- Morning headaches
Is it sleep apnea or just snoring?
Record yourself sleeping or ask your sleep partner to keep track of your snoring, noting how loud and frequent it is, and if you’re gasping, choking, or making other unusual sounds. Even if
you don’t have sleep apnea, a snoring problem can get in the way of your bed partner’s rest and affect your own sleep quality and health. See How to Stop Snoring.Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. So how do you tell the difference between normal snoring and a more serious case of sleep apnea?
The biggest telltale sign is how you feel during the day. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea does, so you’re less likely to suffer from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
See a doctor immediately if you suspect sleep apnea
Sleep apnea can be a potentially serious disorder, so contact a doctor immediately if you spot the warning signs. An official diagnosis of sleep apnea may require seeing a sleep specialist and taking a home- or clinic-based sleep test.
Do you have sleep apnea? Take the questionnaire below:
These questions can help you and your physician figure out if you should be tested for sleep apnea.
Interpreting the score:
0 to 5: Low probability of sleep apnea. You’re sleep problems are more likely to be caused by something other than sleep apnea. Consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
6 to 8: It’s uncertain whether you have sleep apnea. You and your doctor should decide the next step based on your medical history.
9 +: You may have sleep apnea. You are a good candidate for a sleep study and should see your doctor immediately
This questionnaire is not intended to replace professional diagnosis.
Source: Harvard Health Publications
Sleep apnea causes
While anyone can have sleep apnea, you have a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea if you’re:
- Overweight, male, with a family history of sleep apnea
- Over the age of 50, a smoker, affected by high blood pressure
- Black, Hispanic, or a Pacific Islander
- Someone with a neck circumference greater than 15.75 inches (40 cm)
Other physical attributes that put you at risk for obstructive sleep apnea include a deviated septum, receding chin, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Your airway may be blocked or narrowed during sleep simply because your throat muscles tend to relax more than normal. Allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage can also contribute to sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea causes
Like obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is more common in males and people over the age of 65. However, unlike obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is often associated with serious illness, such as heart disease, stroke, neurological disease, or spinal or brainstem injury. The first step in treating CSA is to treat the existing medical conditions that are causing it.
Some people with obstructive sleep apnea can develop central sleep apnea when they’re being treated with positive airway pressure (PAP) devices.