What Are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea?

Reviewed on 6/26/2020

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep Apnea
The most common warning signs of sleep apnea include recurrent awakenings or insomnia, loud snoring, and others.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which an individual’s breathing frequently stops during sleep. The inadequate breathing causes oxygen levels in the blood to drop and disturb sleep. 

In severe cases, sleep disturbances may happen hundreds of times during sleep. It is most commonly seen in adults, but overweight children may also be at risk of developing sleep apnea. 

What are the warning signs of sleep apnea?

The most common warning signs of sleep apnea include:

What are the three types of sleep apnea?

During sleep, the brain usually sends signals to airway muscles to breathe. Depending on this function, sleep apnea is classified into three types: 

  • Central sleep apnea (CSA): It occurs when the brain does not send the signal to the airway muscles to breathe and there is no muscular effort to take a breath. 
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This occurs when the brain sends the signal to the muscles associated with breathing and they make an effort to take a breath, but the airway is obstructed and prevents an adequate flow of air.
  • Mixed sleep apnea: This occurs when there is both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

What are the risk factors of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:

What are the complications of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder if left untreated. Sleep apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, and while driving. Below are common complications of sleep apnea:


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How is sleep apnea treated?

The diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea depend on the patient’s history and physical examination. Below are some common treatments for sleep apnea:

Nonsurgical treatment

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Weight loss
  • Medications, such as nasal decongestants (oxymetazoline and neosynephrine), help in reducing nasal swellings and opening airways
  • Dental appliances
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP machine): Probably the best, nonsurgical treatment for sleep apnea, it keeps the airway open, so it does not collapse during sleep.
  • Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP machine): Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) was designed for people who do not tolerate the higher pressures of CPAP
  • Auto-titrating continuous positive airway pressure: The auto-titrating CPAP machine is a “smart” CPAP machine that makes pressure adjustments throughout the night. The goal of auto-titrating CPAP is to have the lowest possible pressure for each position or sleep level. 

Surgical treatment

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