Sleep Disorders

Updated 24 August 2018

Symptoms of sleep apnoea

While snoring is the most obvious symptom of sleep apnoea, there are other signs to look out for, too.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea include:

  • Loud snoring.
  • Waking up still tired and groggy, and struggling to stay awake during the day.
  • Waking up with headaches.
  • Waking up feeling a choking sensation.
  • Gasping or holding your breath during sleep.
  • Waking up sweating and perspiring excessively during sleep.
  • Frequent stopping of breathing during sleep.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Frequently waking at night to urinate (nocturia).
  • Overweight (sometimes) and/or experiencing rapid weight gain. Most people with obstructive sleep apnoea are overweight. This is because the repeat drop in blood oxygen causes the suppression of a chemical called leptin and the increase of a chemical called ghrelin. This combination causes an increase in weight. When this happens, it’s very difficult or impossible to lose weight.
  • Dry mouth upon awakening.
  • Depression.
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day.
  • Several trips to the bathroom during the night.
  • Heartburn.
  • Reduced libido.
  • Insomnia. As many as 58% of people with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) also have insomnia. Memory problems frequently occur and there’s a seven times raised risk for motor-vehicle accidents in these people. Legally, they should not be behind the wheel of a car. The mood changes aren’t just depression. People with OSA become highly irritable, and it can cause marital break-ups. The memory problems can be so severe as to mimic Alzheimer's disease.
  • Many people consider OSA to be the most important cause of the metabolic syndrome.

Reviewed by Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, specialist neuropsychiatrist in sleep disorders at The London Sleep Centre and The Constantia Sleep Centre. FRCPsych. April 2018.


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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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