Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea symptoms are similar, despite the different causes of the two disorders. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway collapses during sleep, often due to soft tissue at the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea symptoms develop when the muscles that control breathing do not receive the correct commands from the brain.
General Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Certain sleep apnea symptoms are common to both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. All sleep apnea causes hypersomnia, or excessive daytime sleepiness. In addition, both types of sleep apnea cause observable interruptions in breathing during sleep, often followed by snorting, gasping for breath or partial awakening.
Other sleep apnea symptoms can include:
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Morning headaches
- Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Snoring
Loud snoring is a symptom of both obstructive and central sleep apnea, but is more often seen in cases of obstructive sleep apnea due to physical airway obstructions. Central sleep apnea is more likely to cause sudden awakening with shortness of breath.
While snoring is a classic symptom of sleep apnea, it’s important to be aware that not every snorer suffers from sleep apnea and that some people with sleep apnea do not snore, or only snore intermittently.
Central Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Central sleep apnea is sometimes caused by neurological conditions, and central sleep apnea symptoms often reflect the disorder’s origins. In addition to symptoms similar to obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea may be accompanied by numbness or weakness, changes in voice and swallowing difficulties.
Mental Health and Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Disrupted sleep patterns have negative effects on mental health. Sleep apnea symptoms commonly include irritability, memory problems and difficulty concentrating throughout the day. People living with untreated sleep apnea may also exhibit mood swings, personality changes or signs of depression.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Children
Children with sleep apnea have slightly different symptoms than adults. While adults may experience frequent nighttime urination due to sleep apnea, children are more likely to wet the bed. Children with sleep apnea may also experience night terrors, frequent upper respiratory infections or unusual sleeping positions.
Sleep apnea symptoms impair productivity in both children and adults, and a child’s school performance may suffer due to sleep deprivation. Hyperactive behavior is sometimes seen in children with sleep apnea.
When to See a Doctor
People who exhibit any of the following sleep apnea symptoms should report symptoms to their doctor:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Interruptions in breathing observed by others
- Snoring that disrupts a partner’s sleep
- Sudden awakening with shortness of breath.
Some people snore so loud that they disturb their own sleep. Excessive daytime sleepiness leads to people falling asleep while talking, watching television, reading or even driving. Both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea symptoms respond well to treatment.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Sleep apnea. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep-apnea/DS00148.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2009). Sleep apnea. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea/SleepApnea_WhatIs.html.
National Library of Medicine. (2010). Central sleep apnea. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003997.htm.
National Library of Medicine. (2010). Obstructive sleep apnea. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000811.htm.
The Sleep Well. (1999). Childhood sleep apnea. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/childapnea.html.