Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

The most common signs of OSA are snoring, interrupted breathing while you’re asleep and feeling sleepy when you’re awake.

Have a look at the full list of symptoms below – not everyone with OSA will experience them all. Talk to your GP if you have a combination of daytime and night time symptoms.

When asleep:

  • Snoring
  • Stopping breathing or struggling to breathe
  • Feeling of choking
  • Tossing and turning
  • Sudden jerky body movements
  • Needing to go to the toilet in the night

Sometimes your partner might be more aware of your snoring and pauses in your breathing than you are.

When awake:

  • Waking up sleepy and unrefreshed
  • Headache in the morning
  • Difficulty concentrating and feeling groggy, dull and less alert
  • Poor memory
  • Feeling depressed, irritable or other changes of mood
  • Poor co-ordination 
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Heartburn
  • Poor quality of life

Why is it important to diagnose and treat OSA?

OSA can affect your – and your partner’s - quality of life. It can also lead to other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes. You’re more likely to have accidents at work and on the road. And your ability to work may be affected.

Who’s affected?

You’re more likely to have OSA if:

  • you are a man and middle aged
  • you are a woman past your menopause
  • you are overweight or obese
  • you have a large neck size - 17 inches or more
  • you have a small airway, a set-back lower jaw or a small lower jaw, large tonsils, a large tongue or nasal blockage
  • you have a medical condition that makes some of these factors more likely such as Down’s syndrome

OSA can be made worse by drinking alcohol, using sedatives such as sleeping pills and smoking.

Next: Diagnosing OSA >

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Last medically reviewed: May 2016. Due for review: February 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.