What Is Sleep Apnea & Will Sleep Apnea Go Away On Its Own?

What Is Sleep Apnea & Will It Go Away On Its Own?

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In very simple terms, sleep apnea is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep.

Sleep apnea is a potentially severe sleep disorder marked by these recurring interruptions in breathing during sleep. If you experience loud snoring and keep waking up tired despite a full night’s sleep, sleep apnea may be the culprit.

What are the main types of sleep apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This more prevalent type occurs when the muscles in the throat relax, obstructing the airflow into the lungs.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): In this form, the brain fails to transmit proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing.

Treatment-Emergent Central Sleep Apnea (Complex Sleep Apnea): This variation occurs when someone diagnosed with OSA through a sleep study transitions to CSA when undergoing therapy for OSA.

Sleep apnea can really impact your quality of life, so we’ve put this blog together in order for you to understand what sleep apnea is, the symptoms to look out for and, importantly, what can be done about it. 

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

What Is Sleep Apnea & Will Sleep Apnea Go Away On Its Own?

1. You’re a loud sleeper

If you find yourself snoring, snorting or gasping during sleep, it could be an indication that your upper airway is facing potential obstructions. While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, the correlation between the two is quite common. As the volume of snoring increases, the likelihood of having sleep apnea also rises.

For those with apnea, a bed partner might notice that the snoring is intermittently interrupted by moments of halted breathing. These interruptions, known as apnea episodes, can repeat numerous times throughout the night.

2. You’re restless at night

People with apnea usually show restless behaviour during sleep, characterised by tossing, turning and waking up throughout the night. If you frequently experience kicking, thrashing, jerking, or wake up amidst tangled and dishevelled sheets, apnea could be a contributing factor. The struggle to breathe during the night can significantly disrupt your sleep quality.

3. You’re always tired

Even with a complete night's sleep, continual tiredness throughout the day could signal the impact of apnea on your sleep quality. Experiencing episodes of nodding off while reading or watching TV, heightened irritability, reduced productivity, and an increase in work-related errors are potential indicators. Compromised sleep quality can weaken your immune system too, leading to a higher susceptibility to viruses like the common cold.

4. You fit the profile

Certain individuals face a higher likelihood of experiencing obstructive sleep apnea than others. Men, in particular, have a greater likelihood of having apnea compared to women, with the risk for women increasing post-menopause. The risk is significantly heightened in people who are overweight or obese.

Any of these indicators resonate with you? We’d recommend consulting with your doctor. A sleep study might be recommended, conducted overnight, in order to analyse and characterise your breathing patterns during sleep.

Symptoms of sleep apnea to look out for:

  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Always waking up with a dry mouth
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty staying asleep (sleep maintenance insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Irritability
  • Lack of productivity 

What happens if sleep apnea is left untreated?

What Is Sleep Apnea & Will Sleep Apnea Go Away On Its Own?

While effective treatment can often prevent or resolve serious complications associated with sleep apnea, leaving the condition untreated can have significant impacts on health and overall well-being.

Sleep apnea essentially robs the body of quality sleep, and its impact is exacerbated by its influence on oxygen levels in the body.

As a result, obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of various health issues, including:

  • Car accidents resulting from drowsy driving
  • Cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, heart disease and irregular heartbeat
  • Metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes
  • Pulmonary hypertension, characterised by high blood pressure in the lung arteries, placing additional strain on the heart
  • Cognitive problems like impaired memory and concentration
  • Mood disturbances, including irritability and an elevated risk of depression
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, marked by an accumulation of fat deposits in the liver, contributing to potential liver damage
  • Anaesthesia-related complications during surgery
  • In central sleep apnea, the complications vary depending largely on the underlying medical issue causing the disruption in breathing patterns.

Treatment options for sleep apnea

Treatment options for sleep apnea may involve lifestyle adjustments, including weight loss, stopping smoking and moderating alcohol consumption. But some might need to use a CPAP machine, which is provided free of charge through the NHS when deemed necessary.

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine delivers a gentle stream of air through a mask worn over the mouth or nose during sleep. This device aims to:

  • Enhance breathing during sleep by preventing airway constriction.
  • Improve sleep quality, reducing feelings of fatigue.
  • Lower the risk of complications associated with sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure.

While using a CPAP machine might feel unfamiliar or awkward initially, consistency is key. Regular usage, ideally every night, maximises its effectiveness. If you experience discomfort or difficulties, it's important to tell your doctor for potential adjustments or alternative solutions.

Additional treatments for sleep apnea may include:

Mandibular Advancement Device: This device, a bit like a gum shield, helps keep your airways open during sleep.

Surgical Interventions: Procedures, such as the removal of enlarged tonsils, can be performed to address breathing issues.

Lifestyle changes to help with sleep apnea

What Is Sleep Apnea & Will Sleep Apnea Go Away On Its Own?

Here are some actions you can take to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms, especially if the condition is mild:


  • Aim to lose weight if you're overweight.
  • Engage in regular exercise, as physical activity can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Adopt good sleep habits, including ensuring your bedroom is dark and quiet, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time daily.
  • Take a sleep supplement to help you get deeper, better quality sleep. 
  • Sleep on your side; consider using a special pillow or bed wedge to encourage side sleeping and using sleep mask headphones specifically designed for side sleepers. 


  • Don’t smoke or vape.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol, particularly close to bedtime.
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or artificial melatonin, unless advised by a doctor, as they may exacerbate sleep apnea. Choose a potent but natural sleep supplement instead. 

Sleep apnea in children 

What Is Sleep Apnea & Will Sleep Apnea Go Away On Its Own?

Although commonly associated with older adults, sleep apnea can also affect children. In kids, obstructive sleep apnea is much more common than central sleep apnea. It’s estimated that 1% to 5% of children experience obstructive sleep apnea.

Unlike adults with sleep apnea, children with obstructive sleep apnea may not necessarily show excessive daytime sleepiness. Instead, they might display daytime symptoms such as hyperactivity, learning difficulties or behavioural problems.

Similar to adults, snoring is a common symptom in children with obstructive sleep apnea. Children might show other nighttime symptoms too, including sweating, bedwetting or sleepwalking. If left untreated, severe obstructive sleep apnea in children can potentially impact their growth and development.

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in the throat are a common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in many children. Surgical removal of these tissues may be considered as a treatment option.

When to see a doctor about sleep apnea

Your healthcare provider will likely assess your condition based on your symptoms and a comprehensive sleep history, which may involve input from a bed partner or someone in your household (if available).

If needed, you may be directed to a sleep disorder centre, where a specialised sleep expert can further evaluate your situation.

The evaluation often includes overnight monitoring of various physiological functions during sleep testing at a sleep centre. Alternatively, home sleep testing might be an option. Diagnostic tests for sleep apnea can involve:

Nocturnal Polysomnography: This comprehensive test monitors heart, lung, and brain activity, breathing patterns, as well as arm and leg movements and blood oxygen levels during sleep.

Home Sleep Tests: Simplified tests provided by your healthcare provider for home use may measure heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns. However, if central sleep apnea is suspected, your provider is more likely to recommend polysomnography in a sleep testing facility rather than a home sleep test.

In some cases, if the initial results are inconclusive, your healthcare provider might prescribe therapy without further testing. Portable monitoring devices may not always detect sleep apnea accurately, so polysomnography could still be recommended even if initial results fall within the standard range.

For those diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist may be made to investigate potential blockages in the nose or throat. An assessment by a cardiologist or a neurologist might be necessary to explore causes of central sleep apnea.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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