Risks & symptoms sleep apnoea | ResMed

Sleep apnoea symptoms and risks

Sleep apnoea is a serious sleep disorder that can increase your risk of developing other chronic and life-threatening conditions. The good news is that sleep apnoea is treatable. Finding out if you’re at risk is the first step toward improving your health.

What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnoea?

A common sign of and it’s usually the people you live with who recognise it first. They might also tell you that you make gasping or choking sounds while you’re asleep.

However, there are a number of other signs and symptoms of sleep apnoea, including:

  • Snoring
  • Constant tiredness
  • Poor concentration
  • Morning headaches
  • Depressed mood
  • Night sweats
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Sexual dysfunction and/or decreased libido
  • Frequent urination at night

Health risks of untreated sleep apnoea

Clinical studies show that people with untreated sleep apnoea have a higher risk of suffering serious health problems:

  • High blood pressure 
    As many as 1 in 3 people with high blood pressure also have sleep apnoea. 
    43% of people with mild sleep apnoea & 69% of people with severe sleep apnoea have high blood pressure.1 
  • Heart disease
    Sleep apnoea may place you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
    Up to 76% of people with stable heart failure also have sleep apnoea.2
  • Type 2 diabetes 
    Nearly 1 in 2 people with Type 2 diabetes also suffer from sleep apnoea.3
    Studies show that sleep apnoea may affect the body’s ability to use glucose and insulin.   
  • Hypertension
    Sleep apnoea is strongly linked with hypertension, regardless of other risk factors. 
    83% of people with drug-resistant hypertension also have sleep apnoea.4 
  • Stroke
    Multiple studies have shown that people with sleep apnoea are at a higher risk of having a stroke. 
    Among people with recent strokes, more than 70% had sleep apnoea.5 
  • Obesity/overweight
    Treating sleep apnoea can increase daytime energy levels and give you more energy to exercise, which can lead to weight loss.
    77% of obese people also have sleep apnoea.6 

Sleep apnoea increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents

Did you know that people with sleep apnoea are up to 5 times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents?7

A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. However, when sleep apnoea is treated with effective CPAP therapy the risk is reduced.

Who is at risk of sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea can affect anyone, including children. If you have obstructive sleep apnoea, you’re definitely not alone. According to the latest scientific research8, more than 936 million people around the world are affected. This remarkable figure, which was published in the world’s leading respiratory health journal, is nearly 10 times greater than the World Health Organisation’s 2007 estimate of over 100 million.

It is estimated that around 85% of sufferers are not diagnosed8 and, as a result, are not receiving potentially life-changing treatment. There are also a number of significant gender-related differences in the symptoms, diagnosis, consequences and treatment of OSA.

You’re more likely to develop sleep apnoea if you are:

  • Overweight or obese, especially if you have a large neck circumference9
  • Of advancing years of age1
  • A man or a post-menopausal woman10
  • Taking sedatives, such as sleeping tablets or tranquilisers13
  • A smoker or you drink alcohol in the evening12
  • Closely related to people with a history of sleep apnoea13
  • Have nasal congestion or certain physical characteristics, like a narrow airway or large tongue14



Keep exploring

Learn more about sleep apnoea treatment and what you can expect after diagnosis.


If you think you’re at risk of sleep apnoea, get tested. And if you’re diagnosed with sleep apnoea, don’t worry: treatment is straightforward and could dramatically improve your quality of life.


This free eBook contains a comprehensive guide to sleep apnoea, CPAP therapy tips, and much more.

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    1. Young T et al., “Sleep Disordered Breathing and Mortality: Eighteen-Year Follow-up of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort” Sleep (2008): 1071-1078.
    2. Oldenburg O et al. “Sleep-disordered breathing in patients with symptomatic heart failure: a contemporary study of prevalence in and characteristics of 700 patients.” Eur J Heart Fail (2007):251-7.
    3. Einhorn D, et al., “Prevalence of sleep apnea in a population of adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus,” Endocr Pract (2007): 355-62.
  1. Logan AG et al., “High prevalence of unrecognized sleep apnoea in drug-resistant hypertension,” J Hypertens (2001):22271-7.
  2. Bassetti CL et al., “Sleep-disordered breathing and acute ischemic stroke: diagnosis, risk factors, treatment, evolution, and long-term clinical outcome,” Stroke (2006): 967-72.
  3. O’Keeffe & Patterson, “Evidence supporting routine polysomnography before bariatric surgerym,” Obes Surg (2004):23-6.
  4. Karimi M1, Hedner J1, Häbel H2, Nerman O2, Grote L1. Sleep apnea-related risk of motor vehicle accidents is reduced by continuous positive airway pressure: Swedish Traffic Accident Registry data. Sleep. 2015 Mar 1;38(3):341-9. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4486.
  5. Benjafield et al. Estimation of the global prevalence and burden of obstructive sleep apnoea: a literature-based analysis. Lancet Respiratory Medicine 2019. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(19)30198-5.
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  7. Wimms, A., et al., Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Women: Specific Issues and Interventions. Biomed Res Int, 2016. 2016: p. 1764837.
  8. Webster, L.R., et al., Sleep-disordered breathing and chronic opioid therapy. Pain Med, 2008. 9(4): p. 425-32.
  9. Wetter, D.W. and T.B. Young, The relation between cigarette smoking and sleep disturbance. Prev Med, 1994. 23(3): p. 328-34. Scanlan et al. Effect of moderate alcohol upon obstructive sleep apnoea. Eur Respir J. 2000; 16.
  10. Casale, M., et al., Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: from phenotype to genetic basis. Curr Genomics, 2009. 10(2): p. 119-26.
  11. Deacon, N.L., et al., Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Prospects for Personalized Combined Modality Therapy. Ann Am Thorac Soc, 2016. 13(1): p. 101-8.