Sleep Apnea Symptoms: Signs That Lead To Diagnosis and Therapy

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Snoring problems no longer make it to the headlines. Countless people snore – men more than women, of course till women reach menopausal age, when the gap can diminish to some extent. Interestingly, snoring is an evitable outcome of obesity.  The more you weigh the more chances you have to snore.

But what has snoring problems have to do with sleep apnea? Snoring and sleep apnea are closely linked as the latter is an inevitable outcome of neglected snoring. In fact, neglected snoring is the originating point of sleep apnea, one of the most distressful sleep disorders.

One of the strangest and perhaps treacherous aspects of sleep apnea is that the condition can remain undiagnosed for several years. This is because all the typical sleep apnea symptoms show up only during sleep. In fact, most of the time it takes the bed partner or the roommate to notice the warning signals and drag the apnea patient to the doctor to seek medical treatment.

Sleep apnea symptoms: the tell-tale warning signs

Some insight into the typical symptoms of sleep apnea that announce the onset of the condition:

  • Because of the frequent disruption of sleep, excessive daytime tiredness is normal. The consequences of persistent sleep deprivation can be far-reaching. Headaches, proneness to meet with accidents are expected. In fact, people suffering from symptoms of sleep apnea run a risk of meeting with road accidents that is 3 times higher than an average driver.
  • Daytime sleepiness also entails several associated health problems like irritability, insomnia, depression, concentration problems, etc.
  • Rapid and unexplained weight gain. There are two reasons for this: firstly, sleep apnea does not allow the victim to enter into the deep restorative phase of sleep. This disrupts normal appetite and the net result is weight gain. The second reason is that sleep apnea interferes with functioning of two important appetite-related hormones – Grehlin and Leptin. Here too, the ultimate result is quick weight gain.

Sleep apnea symptoms: provide important clues for diagnosis

The typical symptoms of sleep apnea as reported by the patient provide important clues to the physician treating the condition. While they provide the initial direction, doctors still would like to medically confirm their diagnosis with the help of a sleep apnea test. There can be two types of examinations done to diagnose sleep apnea: subjective (biased opinions) and objective with factual data.


Some examples of subjective tests for diagnosing and confirming symptoms of sleep apnea:


  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale. This test confirms the severity of sleepiness as perceived by the patient. This test is further corroborated by the medical history of the patient including work performance, accident history, day time napping, failing memory, etc.
  • Physical examination is also done to assess the severity of sleep apnea symptoms. The aim of such examinations is to assess the location of collapse of the airway. The tests include study of nasal septum, turbinates, polyps, adenoids, etc.


The sleep apnea test that is objective in nature is called polysomnography examination. It is also by another name – sleep study and can be done either at home or at a recommended sleep clinic. Essentially the test studies several physical and physiological parameters during sleep. This kind of sleep apnea test would involve:


  • Brain wave study with an electroencephalogram (EEG) data
  • Study of eye movement with an electro-oculogram (EOG) data
  • Muscular movements with the help of an electromyogram (EMG).
  • Oral and nasal airflow measurement
  • Chest and abdominal movement
  • Assessment of loudness of snoring
  • Study of oxygen levels in the blood using oxymetry
  • Study of sleep pattern


Other tests done to clinically assess the severity of symptoms of sleep apnea include Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) and Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT).


Sleep apnea symptoms: importance of the sleep apnea test

Sleep apnea can be mild, moderate or severe. Treatment modalities entirely depend on the severity of the condition. Going by this line of strategy in the treatment, the results of the sleep apnea test are extremely important in providing the right direction to the doctor. For example, if the test results show that the condition is mild, the treatment is geared to match the seriousness accordingly.