Similarities Between Sleep Apnea and Insomnia

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The public health burden of chronic sleep disorders is immense. Despite the significant technological and clinical advances in medical sciences, the awareness among the general public and health care professionals is relatively low. Sleep disorders are among the major public health issues. It is estimated that a significant world’s population suffer from a chronic disorder of sleep and wakefulness. Sleep apnea and insomnia are two very common clinical sleep disorders that affect an individual’s ability to sleep. In such conditions, people have trouble sleeping, which affects their breathing pattern. Let’s take a look at the two conditions in detail. We also break down the similarities between sleep apnea and insomnia.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects your breathing while sleeping. It is a condition that causes frequent pauses in sleep. Breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, resulting in snoring, fatigue, and other health problems. It is a temporary cessation of normal sleep breathing that is sometimes associated with awakening or decrease in blood oxygen levels. Sleep apnea may cause a number of health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also cause daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and mood swings.

Sleep apnea can be classified mainly into three types:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea – It is the most common type of sleep apnea that occurs when the muscles controlling your airway relax too much to allow normal breathing.
  • Central sleep apnea – It occurs when your brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea – It is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that is often associated with stress and anxiety, and it causes trouble during sleeping, making it difficult for you to get a good quality sleep. It is a disorder characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep. You may wake up early or not be able to go back to sleep. The core symptoms of insomnia correspond to difficulties with initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, waking up early or non-restorative sleep. There are mainly two types of insomnia:

  • Acute insomnia – It is a type of short-term insomnia that usually lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks. It is the most common type that is often caused by stress, anxiety, or a change in sleeping habits.
  • Chronic insomnia – It is a long-term condition that lasts at least 3 months, and is often a result of stress, poor mental health or disrupting sleep habits. It impacts a person’s daily social and overall quality of life.

Similarities between Sleep Apnea and Insomnia

  1. Disruptive sleep pattern – While sleep apnea and insomnia are two distinct sleep disorders, they can significantly disrupt your sleep pattern, affecting your ability to sleep. You will have trouble breathing throughout the night and breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, resulting in fragmented sleep. Both result in poor sleep quality, which may further lead to other health problems.
  2. Daytime fatigue – Both the conditions can lead to daytime fatigue and sleepiness. You may feel tired all the time but usually don’t fall asleep during the day. This can have a negative impact on your body and your ability to function during the day. Sleep apnea can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, whereas insomnia can cause difficulty concentrating, irritability, and poor work or school performance.
  3. Health complications – Depression and anxiety are found to be highly prevalent in those with sleep apnea and insomnia diagnosis. Apart from anxiety and stress, sleep disorders can contribute to a range of health complications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Disruptive sleeping increases the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. It can also be life threatening.
  4. Treatment and care – Both sleep apnea and insomnia can be effectively managed with simple lifestyle changes such as regular physical exercises, good sleep hygiene, as well as medications or therapies. The first line of treatment for insomnia and chronic sleep apnea is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Treatment may also include the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which aids in keeping the airway open during sleep.


Do sleep apnea and insomnia have similarities?

Yes, both are common yet potentially serious sleep disorders that affect an individual’s ability to sleep. Both the conditions result in poor sleep quality, daytime fatigue and sleepiness, which may further lead to other health problems.

What is the connection between sleep apnea and insomnia?

Although there is no direct link between sleep apnea and insomnia, they can co-occur in some people.

What are the similarities between insomnia and narcolepsy?

Both insomnia and narcolepsy are common sleep disorders that can make you feel extremely sleepy during the daytime and drowsy, ultimately disrupting your sleep cycle and cause daytime fatigue.

What conditions are similar to sleep apnea?

There are other sleep disorders that exhibit symptoms similar to sleep apnea, symptoms such as narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, upper airway resistance syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.

What is a similarity between sleep apnea and narcolepsy?

Both sleep apnea and narcolepsy are chronic sleep disorders that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and they share the same risk factors, including obesity.

What is the difference between insomnia and sleep apnea?

Both are common sleep disorders that affect an individual’s ability to sleep. However, the main difference between the two conditions is that insomnia involves difficulty in falling or staying asleep, while sleep apnea is mainly a sleep-related breathing disorder that affects your breathing.

What disease is similar to insomnia?

Depression shares some similarities with insomnia, as it can also cause disruptions in sleep patterns and lead to fatigue. Other similar diseases include narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, etc.

What mimics insomnia?

Common sleep disorders that mimic insomnia include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), restless legs syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy, etc.

Author: Sagar Khillar

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