Sleep Apnoea Symptoms

Thu, Mar 03, 2011

Sleep apnoea symptoms vary widely, and the line between symptoms, consequences and co-morbidities is sometimes blurred.

That said, some of the more common sleep apnoea symptoms are:

Snoring  One of the most obvious indicators of possible apnoea is snoring ... because snoring itself is a sign of an impaired and disrupted airflow while sleeping.  Most apnoea sufferers are also snorers, so if you know someone who snores they are in the high risk category.

Waking Choking / Gasping  This is the classic sleep apnoea symptom.  As the body falls into deeper levels of sleep, the muscles in the airway relax and allow the soft tissue of the soft palate, uvula, tongue and pharyngeal wall to collapse into the airway.  Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when these tissues literally block the airway and prevent the sufferer from inhaling.  The cessation of breathing could be as little as 10 seconds, or as long as 2 minutes or more.  The 'waking choking gasping' is as a result of the body's sympathetic nervous system waking the sufferer to get them breathing again.

Waking Tiredness  Logically, we should feel most refreshed immediately upon waking.  After all, we've just finished sleeping and have done nothing to become fatigued.  However, a common sleep apnoea symptom is waking tiredness because sleep apnoea sufferers don't enjoy proper, restful sleep.  A severe apnoea sufferer stops breathing at least 30 times per hour while they're asleep.  That means, in an 8 hour sleep period, they don't actually experience a full 8 hours sleep, but rather 240 short naps.  The quality of the sleep is consequently diminished.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness  Another common sleep apnoea symptom is excessive drowsiness during the day, especially after lunch and during the afternoon.  The excessive sleepiness may also present itself early in the evening, long before normal bedtime, say when sitting in front of TV or even at the dinner table, for instance.

Acid Reflux  One part of the sympathetic nervous system's response to an extended apnoeic event is to release bile or acid into the gut.  Waking with acid reflux is a common symptom of apnoea.  As a sidenote, it's worth noting that apnoea sufferers sometimes develop bronchial inflammation, similar to asthma, as a consequence of waking and gasping for air and thereby inhaling the acid into the lungs.

High Blood Pressure  High blood pressure or hypertension are common symptoms and/or consequences of sleep apnoea.  This is as a result of the extra stress which the body is under as a consequence of the disrupted breathing.

Low Lidido & Impotence  Not surprisingly, a person who is not sleeping properly is less likely to enjoy a healthy sex life.  Combined with hypertension and other conditions, impotence can be one serious consequence.  (The good news is this is typically reversible, once treatment for the apnoea is completed.)

Obesity  It's a known fact that overweight people are at greater risk of suffering from sleep apnoea, because of the fat-enlarged tissues in the airway.  But it's not a one-way street.  Being overweight does increase the likelihood of sleep disordered breathing, but medical research is now finding that sleep disordered breathing causes people to become overweight.  The exact cause is not fully understood, but it is clear that apnoea sufferers tend to have a retarded metabolism which makes it easier to gain weight and harder to shed it.

Nocturia  Frequent night time urination is another common symptom of sleep apnoea.  In a healthy human, drinking a normal amount of liquid, there should be no need to visit the toilet during hte night. 

These are just a few of the many symptoms of sleep apnoea and, as mentioned earlier, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether these conditions are symptoms or consequences of the condition.  In any case, if these conditions are seen in any sort of combination, a diagnostic sleep study is fully justified. 

You'll find more information about the symptoms of sleep apnoea and the consequences and co-mordities associated with the condition throughout this website.