Risk Factors & Symptoms

Common misperceptions are that sleep apnea is a “male disease” and that only obese people suffer from sleep apnea. The stereotypical patient with sleep apnea is a middle-aged, overweight male; however, anyone can suffer from this condition.

Risk factors for sleep apnea

  • Male gender
  • Menopausal state
  • Excessive weight/central abdominal obesity*
  • Large neck circumference (>17” in men; >16” in women)
  • Physical inactivity*
  • Diagnosis of hypertension
  • Excess tissue in the upper airway
  • Age*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Excessive use of alcohol or sedatives
  • Endocrine and metabolic disorders
  • Family history of sleep apnea

*Risk factors common to both sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes

Nighttime symptoms Daytime symptoms
Snoring EDS (Excessive Daytime Somnolence)
Pauses in breathing during sleep Fatigue
Choking High blood pressure
Recurrent awakenings Depression, irritability
Palpitations Morning headaches
Nocturia Impaired memory and concentration
Restlessness Automobile accidents


Snoring and Sleep Apnea

While loud snoring is the classical symptom of sleep apnea, not all patients with sleep apnea will present with snoring as the primary symptom.

Women, in particular, may be more likely to complain of fatigue and depression rather than snoring or witnessed apneas.

Sleep apnea severely diminishes a patient’s quality of life and increases the risk of other serious health conditions, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Patients can be easily evaluated for their risk of sleep apnea using 5 Simple Questions. (Find out more about the diagnosis of sleep apnea.)

Dr. Aliya Ferouz Colburnon on Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

1 Ohayon MM. J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64:1195-2000
2 Schwarts DJ and Karantinos G. J Clin Sleep Med 2007;3:613 -5