What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

Dr. Fred Y. Lin, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT Specialist)

The combination of poor sleep and oxygen starvation may cause daytime sleepiness along with deficits in memory, attention and concentration. In addition, people suffering from sleep apnea may experience mood depression and they may be at increased risk for accidents when driving automobiles or working with some equipment.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include not feeling refreshed or feeling tired after waking up in the morning, taking a while to get going in the morning (still feeling sleepy, even after coffee and a shower), lapses of concentration during the day, and feeling sleepy at work or in the car. Sometimes, spouses notice their partner's symptoms, such has loud snoring, pauses in breathing and moving or thrashing about during sleep.

Dr. Dawn Marcus

Here are factors that suggest obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Loud snoring (partner may have to sleep in another room)
  • Witnessed apnea (stopped breathing)
  • Excessive daytime fatigue
  • High blood pressure (systolic blood pressure over 140 or diastolic blood pressure over 90)
  • Large neck size (more than size 16 in a woman)
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The main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include the following:

  • Loud snoring, except during pauses in breathing
  • Pauses in breathing that usually last from 10 to 30 seconds, but may last for a minute or longer

If you're not sure whether you snore or have breathing gaps, ask a close friend, relative or partner if he or she has observed these symptoms in you. You can also record yourself while you sleep.

Although you may not be aware of breathing interruptions and fragmented sleep, it's likely that you're not getting adequate rest if you suffer from daytime symptoms such as these:

  • Morning headaches
  • Forgetfulness or an inability to concentrate
  • Tiredness
  • Frequent dozing off
Sleep apnea is when your breathing repeatedly stops for more than 10 seconds during sleep. Partners or roommates usually notice snoring or weird noises you make at night, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Here are six other signs besides snoring:
  • difficulty concentrating
  • dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up
  • fatigue during the day from not getting restful sleep
  • frequent urination throughout the night
  • headaches, particularly in the morning
  • irritability, depression or mood swings
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Dr. Ozgen Dogan
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Someone who has sleep apnea snores a lot while sleeping. Their partner may say that they even stop breathing for long periods during the night. A person with sleep apnea is often overweight and may have high blood pressure. To diagnose this condition, it's sometimes necessary to be monitored at a sleep lab. Treatment can include a special mouthpiece to reduce snoring or a breathing device.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

If you experience symptoms of sleep apnea, including chronic, severe snoring, often accompanied by gasping, choking or daytime sleepiness, find a sleep specialist in your area who can prescribe specific treatments such as a CPAP machine, which keeps your airway open during sleep.

Sleep apnea can ruin a good night's sleep and your health, too. In this video, Dr. Mehmet Oz reveals common symptoms that may mean you have this serious problem.

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Dr. Michael Breus, PhD
Psychology Specialist

The major symptoms of sleep apnea can include: snoring, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches and dry mouth, observed periods of holding breath while asleep (observed apneas), poor concentration and attention, memory lapses, depression and emotional disturbances, non-restorative sleep, poor coordination, decreased libido and in some cases depression.

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is snoring. But, just because you snore doesn't mean you have sleep apnea. Snoring is likely a sign of sleep apnea when it is followed by silent breathing pauses and choking or gasping sounds.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud or frequent snoring
  • Silent pauses in breathing
  • Choking or gasping sounds
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking during the night to go to the bathroom
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Irritability

This content originally appeared on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website.

Debra Fulghum Bruce PhD
Healthcare Specialist

Common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are:

  • morning headaches
  • high blood pressure
  • dry mouth
  • sore throat upon awakening
  • depression
  • concentration problems
  • memory failure
  • impotence
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • restless sleep (increased movements)
  • choking sensations
  • frequent awakenings
  • irregular heart rhythm
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Sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder that affects many people with cardiovascular disease. The disorder consists of a series of pauses in breathing during sleep due to temporary airway obstruction, which taxes your cardiovascular system and can increase risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

If you are experiencing the following signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, you may wish to discuss them with your physician so you can be screened for the disorder.

  • Restless sleep
  • Loud snoring
  • Awakening to a feeling of choking, gasping or smothering
  • Morning headaches, dry mouth or sore throat
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Memory impairment or difficulty concentrating


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.