Many who think they are suffering from insomnia are actually experiencing sleep apnea. According to the Stanford University Web site, apnea is a “cessation of breath”. Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing while asleep. Some who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing several times every hour.

The reason that sleep apnea and insomnia are sometimes mistaken one for another is that some of the symptoms are similar. For example, if you are suffering from insomnia, you will experience fatigue during the day and if you are suffering from sleep apnea, you may awaken several times during the night.

While some of the symptoms may be similar, sleep apnea can be life threatening. Some of the potential problems for those with sleep apnea include stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure and other serious conditions.

There are many possible causes of sleep apnea including obesity, excessive alcohol use, nose, throat or airway abnormality as well as some serious diseases such as muscular dystrophy.

While you cannot diagnose sleep apnea at home, there are some symptoms that may be present with sleep apnea that will likely not be present with simple insomnia. These include heartburn at night, very loud snoring, choking while sleeping or nearing sleep, tossing and turning, sweating at night or headaches at bedtime or in the morning.

If you think there is a chance that you are suffering from sleep apnea, do not just brush it off as simple insomnia. Remember, sleep apnea can be a life threatening condition, but is quite easily treated once diagnosed.

To diagnose sleep apnea, the doctor will do a medical examination and then perform a sleep study. The doctor may perform the study in a lab or hospital. In this case, you would be asked to sleep at the hospital so that you can be monitored. Another way to conduct the study is to have you wear an instrument that will monitor your vital signs while sleeping at home.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, it may be treated with simple lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink or even something as simple as changing the position in which you sleep.

Some patients wear a device in the mouth that will help to keep the airways open. For more severe cases, you may have to wear a device called a C-PAP which forces air into the nose, thus making sure the airways stay open.

Because sleep apnea and insomnia symptoms mimic in some ways, some who think that they have insomnia take sleeping pills in order to get the rest that they need. If they are actually suffering from sleep apnea, however, that can cause serious problems.

Do not take a chance with your health. Sleep apnea and insomnia may have some similar symptoms, but one of those conditions can have grave consequences if left undiagnosed and untreated.

It’s difficult to tell the difference between sleep apnea and insomnia. A visit to your doctor will put your mind at ease and ensure that you get the correct treatment for your condition.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Stevens is an insomnia sufferer and publisher of to help people get a decent night's rest.