Most Common Signs of Sleep Apnea

An estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, with 80% of cases going undiagnosed each year. If left untreated, this disorder can increase the likelihood of serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes. Knowing the common signs of sleep apnea can help you reach a diagnosis and avoid the negative consequences. 

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders, in which a person starts and stops breathing repeatedly throughout the night. Obstructive and central are the two main types of sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form and occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep. Central sleep apnea is caused when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. A third type, complex sleep apnea, is a combination of the two.


Undiagnosed sleep apnea presents itself in a variety of different ways.

A few of the most common signs of both obstructive and central sleep apnea are:

  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Insomnia 
  • Changes in mood, such as irritability 
  • Trouble focusing while awake 
  • Decreased libido
  • Dizziness 
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Frequent urination throughout the night, including bedwetting  
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Excessive night sweating

Other symptoms of sleep apnea might not be apparent to you because they occur during sleep. 

Those you share your household with may have noticed some of the following signs:

  • Snoring
  • Gasping for air
  • Choking 
  • Pauses in breathing for up to 10 seconds at a time

Risk Factors

Anyone can be diagnosed with sleep apnea, but certain risk factors can increase your likelihood, including gender. Men are 2-3 times more likely to have this disorder than women.

Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity. Large fat deposits around the upper airway can obstruct breathing.
  • Family history. Having other family members with sleep apnea increases your risk.
  • Medical conditions. Conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and heart failure can lead to sleep apnea. The risk of these health problems is also increased by the disorder.
  • Smoking. Smoking causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway, which can affect breathing.
  • Older age. Both the likelihood and severity of sleep apnea increase with age.
  • Physical abnormalities. Abnormalities of the nose, throat, or upper airway can inhibit breathing.
  • Neck circumference. People with thicker necks tend to have more narrow airways.
  • Complications

Sleep apnea increases the likelihood of other complications like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. It is also linked to irregular heartbeats and heart failure. 

Other negative health effects from untreated sleep apnea are:

  • Headaches
  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Chronic fatigue 

When You Should See a Doctor

While loud snoring is one of the signs of sleep apnea, not everyone who snores has this sleep disorder. People with sleep apnea tend to snore the loudest when they sleep on their backs. In addition to snoring, some of the signs of sleep apnea overlap with other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy. If you notice any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor. 

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Oro Valley

The first step in treating sleep apnea is reaching a diagnosis. At Smith Dentalworks, we collaborate with other professionals to assist those diagnosed with sleep apnea in creating a custom treatment plan.

For more information on how Smith Dentalworks can relieve your sleep apnea symptoms, contact us today.