Can you have sleep apnea during the day?

This question was asked in Staten Island, New York on 04/25/2012.
I have just been diagnosed with a sleep apnea hypopnea. However I have not yet seen the doctor for a follow up. I am trying to get an understanding before I see him this week. My reports said that I had 38 hypopneas in 1 hour of the sleep study (I did not have a complete study due to the disturbances in the environment) with a mean duration of 22.9 seconds and maximum of 38.5. I understand that this is shallow breathing. I wonder if I experience this throughout the day because I always feel like I am holding my breath and have to remind myself to breath. I take deep breaths and sigh often. If it is possible that sleep apnea does exist in daytime, what could be the causes? Friends have asked me if it could be anxiety, but I do not feel that it is. I love my job and have a wonderful family. I am definitely fast-moving and have high energy. I was wondering if it could be neurological. Thank you.

Doctors Answers (3)

Syed Nabi, M.D.
Answered on: 4/26/2012

It is best you get treated for your sleep apnea. Brain is a funny thing with complex physiology during day and it changes during sleep. You may be surprised that your daytime breathing improvesl as your sleep apnea improves with CPAP. Sleep apnea happens only during sleep and not while awake, but i have seen some people reported breathing better during day as well. It is one of those things you will have to try CPAP to know how it goes.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 4/26/2012

Yes, you can have sleep apnea in the daytime if you are napping. I assume, however, you mean can you experience apnea while awake, not asleep, in the daytime. Yes, you can. This is usually Central Apnea caused by a malfunctioning of the brain respiratory center and/or a malfunction of the normal oxygen and carbon dioxide interchange which tells us to breath or exhale. Sometimes it is not necessarily secondary to any abnormality of the brain or other organ system which affect the oxygen ratios (heart disease, for example). But, it can be present in normal individuals who go to high altitude areas like Colorado or deep sea divers who become accustomed to holding their breath for long periods. If you have an Apnea/Hypopnea index of 38 per hour you need to be treated, preferably with CPAP therapy (continuous positive airway pressure) or Bi-level PAP. You should also be checked out to see if you have any abnormality of your lungs. jdhudson.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 4/25/2012

By definition the sleep apnea events occur during sleep and are confined to that state of consciousness. Sleep apnea is a cessation of breathing that lead to low oxygen and raised carbon dioxide which toxic to the heart and vasculature. Treatment with CPAP or an oral appliance if only mild to moderate in severity should continue if it hasn't begun already. If you have shortness of breath, an irregular daytime breathing pattern or breath holding spells then referral to a pulmonologist or possibly a neurologist may be of benefit to you.