Ask SleepBetter: I Stop Breathing in My Sleep

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer?  Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter.  You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form.  We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues.  Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is a very serious one.



“Why do I stop breathing when I sleep? My wife tells me.”

-Dave Jenkins (via Facebook)




Right at the top of this answer, we’re going to urge you to make an appointment with your family doctor or a sleep specialist immediately.  We don’t diagnose sleep disorders at, but interruption of breathing while you sleep is a symptom of sleep apnea, a potentially very serious disorder.

Several types of sleep apnea exist, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. The most noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.  Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, although it most commonly affects middle-aged and older adults and people who are overweight.  Smoking and use of alcohol tends to make sleep apnea worse.

Another big symptom of sleep apnea is feeling tired during the day despite getting what you think is a full night’s sleep.  This is because the quality of sleep among individuals with sleep apnea is very poor.

Sleep apnea can lead to a number of health problems, and can be fatal.  Treatments include losing weight, quitting smoking and alcohol, and use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device while you sleep.