Symptoms and Signs of Sleep Apnea

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2022

Doctor's Notes on Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by a periodic reduction in or a complete stop of breathing during sleep. The two main types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is due to an obstruction to the flow of air into the lungs, and central sleep apnea (CSA), which is a result of an abnormal regulatory mechanism in the brain.

Symptoms of sleep apnea may include

  • daytime fatigue and sleepiness,
  • problems sleeping (insomnia),
  • difficulty concentrating and paying attention,
  • memory problems, 
  • anxiety,
  • irritability, 
  • headaches, and
  • difficulty performing work duties.

If not diagnosed and treated, complications of sleep apnea can include

Sleep apnea can also cause a frequent awakening of the bed partner resulting in insomnia and its associated symptoms.

What are the treatments for sleep apnea?

Treatments vary with the severity of the symptoms. Some treatments may be used together. The goal of treatments is to reduce airway blockage. The following is a list of potential treatments you and your doctors may consider for your condition:

  • Stop smoking; loose weight
  • Oral appliances to help keep the throat open
  • CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure); many types
  • Supplemental O2 
  • Treatment for central sleep apnea like medical conditions that involve the heart or other organ systems
  • ASV (adaptive servo-ventilation) to normalize your breathing pattern
  • Surgery
    • Throat tissue shrinkage and/or removal
    • Jaw repositioning
    • Tracheostomy (for severe sleep apnea)
    • Other treatments (for example, soft palate implants, and nerve stimulation implants; for example, see Inspire for upper airway stimulation)

New treatments are constantly appearing; check with your doctor(s) to find the best treatment(s) for your condition.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.