Common symptoms of sleep disorders

The symptoms of sleep disorders and sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) are important to recognise in patients.

Some of the most recognisable symptoms of sleep disorders are daytime sleepiness and snoring, even though many patients ignore these signs or fail to recognise these as symptoms.

Other symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing may include: 1

  • poor concentration
  • morning headaches
  • depressed mood
  • night sweats
  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • forgetfulness
  • sexual dysfunction
  • nocturia

If your patient presents with any of the above symptoms, it's important to talk to them about the potential risk of sleep apnoea and recommend a sleep test if you believe this is necessary.

Risk factors for developing OSA

In Australia, obesity is increasing and also may be the most common risk factor in developing OSA2

Symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing in children

Obstructive Sleep apnoea affects up to 5.7% of children3, with common symptoms including:

  • pathological snoring and habitual snoring (which affects 3.2-12% of children)4
  • noisy breathing and increased work of breathing
  • pauses in breathing with noisy resumption of breathing
  • chronic mouth breathing
  • behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity and aggressiveness
  • restless sleep

There are a number of risk factors that could also predispose children to having sleep-disordered breathing, including:

  • Adenotonsillar hypertrophy 5
  • Craniofacial malformation6
  • Congenital syndromes3
  • Obesity7

If symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing are observed in a child, it's important to either refer the child to a paediatric sleep physician or recommend a sleep test to determine whether he or she has a breathing disorder.

Find out how to request a sleep test.



Palrikter G et al. Obstructive sleep apnoea in adults Identifying risk factors and tailoring therapy. MedicineToday 2012; 13(8): 14-23.


Palrikter G et al. Obstructive sleep apnoea in adults Identifying risk factors and tailoring therapy. MedicineToday 2012; 13(8): 14-23.


Waters, K.A., Suresh, S., & Nixon, G.A. 2013 ‘ Sleep Disorders in Children’. Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 8, pp. 31-35.


Castronovo V, et al. J of Pediatrics. 2003 ‘Prevalence of habitual snoring and sleep-disordered breathing in preschool-aged children in an Italian community’


Greenfeld, M., Tauman, R., DeRowe, A., & Sivan, Y. 2003. ‘Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome due to adenotonsillar hypertrophy in infants’. Journal of pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, vol. 67, no. 10, pp. 1055-1060.


Lam, Derek J., Jensen, Christine C., Mueller, Beth A., Starr, Jacqueline R., Cunningham, Michael L., & Weaver, Edward M. 2010 ‘Pediatric Sleep Apnea and Craniofacial Anomalies: A population-Base case – Control Study’. Laryngoscope, vol. 120, no. 10, pp. 2098-2015.


Redline, S., Tishler, PV., Schluchter, M., Aylor, J., Clark, K., & Graham, G. 1999, ‘Risk Factors for Sleep-disordered breathing in children – Associations with obesity, race and respiratory problems’. American Journal of respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, vol. 159, no. 5, pp. 1527-1532.