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Poor sleep and feeling groggy might mean you have sleep apnea. Learn about symptoms and why it’s important to diagnose and treat sleep apnea.


The dangers of sleep apnea

If left untreated, it may raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Daytime drowsiness can also affect your quality of life and your work performance.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which there are repeated pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. There are two types and they can occur together. These include obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea

This is the most common type. Soft tissue in the back of the mouth relaxes and blocks the airway during sleep. It is common in adults who are overweight. Having enlarged tonsils also can be a factor in the condition, especially in children.


Central sleep apnea

The area of the brain that controls respiration does not send the correct signals to the breathing muscles during sleep.

Symptoms of sleep apnea may include:

  • Snoring
  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Tossing and turning during sleep
  • Feeling tired the next day
  • Experiencing morning headaches
  • Having trouble concentrating

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

See your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Based on your history, your doctor may do a physical exam and refer you to a sleep specialist if needed. The specialist may have you do a sleep study. A limited study may be done at home using portable equipment.

Treatment may include:

  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding alcohol and sleep medications
  • Not sleeping on your back
  • Oral devices
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine
  • Surgery



  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • UpToDate
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine
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