What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea? - Signs, Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Diagnosis

Last updated: September 7th, 2023

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a medical condition that affects an estimated one in twenty-five middle-aged men and one in fifty middle-aged women. OSA is a serious condition with many potential dangerous side-effects, not the least of which is death. OSA puts strain on the cardiovascular system, which in turn can lead to a heart attack or stroke, among other cardiac problems.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Millions of adults snore or have snoring partners, but how can you tell if your snoring is benign or indicative of a more serious medical condition such as sleep apnea? There are several signs and symptoms of sleep apnea that you should look out for. If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to consult with your doctor.

  • Overweight - Being overweight increases your risk of developing sleep apnea. Women with a neck measurement of 16”+ and men with a neck measurement of 17”+ are at a higher risk. Losing even 10-15 lbs can dramatically help to reduce snoring and symptoms of sleep apnea.
  • Loud snoring – Ask your partner how frequent and how intense your snoring is. Sleep apnea sufferers will snore loudly and often throughout the night.
  • Pauses in breathing - If your partner notices that you often pause in your breathing and briefly stop breathing altogether, you could be suffering from sleep apnea.
  • Daytime tiredness – If you feel tired all the time, even after getting plenty of sleep, then it could be a sign that your sleep is being disrupted during the night, likely due to sleep apnea.

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

Only a properly trained medical professional can determine the likelihood of you having sleep apnea and ultimately diagnose the disorder. Your doctor may have you complete a questionnaire such as the STOP-BANG before deciding your risk for OSA and whether or not further testing is warranted. Sleep studies are often used to diagnose OSA and provide insight into the severity of the condition. Treatments for OSA will vary depending on the severity, but typically involve lifestyle measures and/or the use of medical devices or even surgery.

What are Some of the Risk Factors for OSA?

Risk factors for OSA include obesity, age, genetics, and lifestyle factors. Many people who suffer from sleep apnea tend to be overweight, being menopausal or over the age of 65, and having a family history of OSA. Lifestyle factors that can increase your risk for OSA include smoking, drinking alcohol, taking sedatives, and sleeping on your back.


Although snoring in itself is not deadly, it could be a sign of a more serious condition such as sleep apnea which carries many potential health risks. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and if you suspect that you might be suffering from it, then contact your doctor for proper diagnosis.

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