Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine office visits. Also, no blood test can help diagnose the condition.Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. In this condition, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses.
When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone. For example, small children who have enlarged tonsil tissues in their throats may have obstructive sleep apnea.
Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Silent pauses in breathing
- Choking or gasping sounds
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Morning headaches
- Nocturia (waking during the night to go to the bathroom)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Decreased sexual desire
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): The more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea: Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Muscle weakness within the tongue, mouth, and upper throat may lead snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. This may be improved with myofunctional therapy.