Sleep Apnea

Signs and Symptoms

You may have sleep apnea without knowing it. Sleep apnea develops over many years and may take a while to present itself.
The two main symptoms are:
1. Excessive daytime sleepiness that cannot be explained by other causes
2. Loud snoring with pauses in breathing

Other symptoms or conditions include:
• Waking with a dry mouth
• Morning headache
• Irritability
• Gasping or choking during sleep
• Lack of concentration when awake
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Heart, liver and kidney disease
• Depression
• Impotence
What is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?
If you fall asleep when watching a movie, talking to someone, or even driving, this would be considered excessive daytime sleepiness. It possibly means you may have sleep apnea. You can determine how
sleepy you are by completing an online version of the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

Risk Factors
Any combination of the following may increase your risk of having OSA:
• Obesity or excess weight
• Large, thick neck
• Being male
• Being older
• Family history of obstructive sleep apnea
• Smoking
• Recessed chin (chin pulled backward to your neck)
• Large tonsils or other anatomical changes in upper airway and nose
• Certain medical conditions

Risks Linked to Untreated Sleep Apnea
• You may develop high blood pressure or type II diabetes
• Your risk of heart attack or stroke increases
• Your memory and concentration can be poor
• You are at much greater risk of causing a motor vehicle accident and work-related injury
• You may develop an irregular heartbeat


1. James M. Parish, Vivend Somers, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease, Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2004, Aug. 79(8) and Baguet JP, Hammer L, Levy P, Pierre H, Rossini E, Mouret S, Ormezzano O, Mallion JM, and Pepin JL. Night-time and diastolic hypertension are common and underestimated conditions in newly diagnosed apnoeic patients. J Hypertens 23: 521-527, 2005

This content was reviewed on by The Canadian Thoracic Society.

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Page Last Updated: 16/12/2020