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Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Symptoms - Consequences - Risks

Are you trying to stop snoring? Certain sleep apnea symptoms and associated conditions can be a strong indication that you have sleep apnea.

What are the symptoms?

Sleep apnea has a range of symptoms. You may have sleep apnea if you have more than two or three of them:

  • Snoring – many sleep apnea patients are referred to the doctor because their snoring keeps their partner awake
  • Feeling sleepy during the day – some people seek treatment after they have fallen asleep while driving or at work
  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling depressed, irritable or moody6,7
  • Suffering from a reduced sex drive or erectile dysfunction
  • Going to the toilet frequently at night
  • Nightmares

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Consequences from Sleep Apnea Syndrome

People who suffer from sleep apnea often suffer from other conditions associated with, and possibly caused by, sleep apnea.

By treating sleep apnea, you may also be able to reduce the severity of, or risk of suffering from :

  • Hypertension(16): if you have OSA, you are more likely to have high blood pressure. Bear in mind that 30% of hypertensive people have OSA and 50% of people suffering from OSA have hypertension.
  • Cardiovascular disease(16): OSA can lead to problems with the rhythm of your heart and can induce an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) and slow heart rate (bradycardia).
  • Heart attack(16): sleep apnea may lead to coronary heart disease can result in a heart attack. If OSA is left untreated, the risk of having a heart attack is doubled. Did you know that 70% of patients admitted to hospital for coronary artery disease were found to have sleep apnea?
  • Stroke(17): OSA is connected with an increased risk of stroke in middle-aged and older adults, especially men.
  • Type 2 diabetes(15): medical research has confirmed the link between sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes. 40% of people with OSA have type 2 diabetes.

Sleep apnea risk factors

Anyone can have sleep apnea, regardless of age, sex or body type. Having any of the following factors may put you at increased risk15:

  • Being older: Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in adults older than 50.
  • Being male: OSA is more common in men than women. This has been attributed to differences in anatomical and functional properties of the upper airway.
  • Excess weight: An adult with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or higher is considered to be obese. Your risk of sleep apnea increases with the amount of excess body weight.
  • Family history: Sleep apnea can appear more often among first-degree family members. This may be a result of either inherited traits or similar lifestyles.
  • Narrowed airway. If you have a nasal congestion, an anatomical defect or a respiratory allergy, you're more likely to develop OSA.
  • Post-menopause: OSA is more common in post-menopausal women.
  • Pregnancy: OSA increases during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester.
  • Smoking is associated with a higher risk of snoring and developing an OSA.
  • Alcohol can increase upper airway collapsibility leading to apneas.


  1. Chronic respiratory diseases, The World Health Organizaton,  viewed 21 May 2015
  2. Reawakening Australia: the economic cost of sleep disorders in Australia, 2010, A report for the Sleep Health Foundation by Deloitte Access Economics© 2011 Deloitte Access Economics Pty Ltd
  3. O’Keefe,, Evidence supporting routine Polysomnography before bariatric surgery, inObesity Surgery, January 2014
  4. Hargenset TA, Kaleth AS, Edwards ES, and Butner KL (2013). Association between sleep disorders, obesity, and exercise: a review. Nat Sci Sleep. 5: 27-35.
  5. Young, T., Palta, M., Dempsey, J., Skatrud, J., Weber, S., & Safwan, B. (1993). The occurrence of sleep-disordered breathing amount middle-aged adults. The New England Journal of Medicine. 328, 1230-1235.
  6. Paul E. Peppard; Mariana Szklo-Coxe; K. Mae Hla; Terry Young (2006). Longitudinal Association of Sleep-Related Breathing Disorder and Depression. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(16):1709-1715.
  7. Anne G. Wheaton; Geraldine S. Perry; Daniel P. Chapman; Janet B. Croft. Sleep Disordered Breathing and Depression among U.S. Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2008
  8. Young, T., Peppard, P.E., & Gottlieb, D.J. (2002). Epidemiology of obstructive sleep apnea: a population health perspective. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med, 165, 1217-1239
  9. Young T. et al (2008): Sleep Disordered Breathing and Mortality: Eighteen-Year Follow-up of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort
  10. Peppard PE, Young T, Palta M, Skatrud J (2000): Prospective study of the association between sleep-disordered breathing and hypertension. NEJM 342(19): 1378-1384
  11. Dincer HE, O’Neill W (2006): Deleterious effects of sleep-disordered breathing on the heart and vascular system. Respiration 73(1): 124-130
  12. Meslier N, Gagnadoux F, Giraud P, Person C, Ouksel H, Urban T, Racineux JL (2003): Impaired glucose-insulin metabolism in males with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome. Eur Respir J 22(1): 156-160
  13. Bottini P, Dottorini ML, Cristina Cordoni M, Casucci G, Tantucci C (2003): Sleep-disordered breathing in nonobese diabetic subjects with autonomic neuropathy. Eur Respir J 22: 654- 660
  14. Elmasry A, Lindberg E, Berne C, Janson C, Gislason T, Awad Tageldin M, Boman G (2001): Sleep-disordered breathing and glucose metabolism in hypertensive men: a population-based study. J Intern Med 249(2): 153-161
  15. Sleep breathing disorders – European Respiratory Society WhiteBook (chapter 23)
  16. The World Health Organization. Chronic respiratory diseases viewed 05/21/2015
  17. Obstructive Sleep Apnea – A guide for GP’s – British Lung Foundation (NHS)

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