Sleep medicine professionals have long known that many of their patients have co-occurring sleep disorders: insomnia and sleep apnea. In fact, people often seek help for insomnia, not realizing that the problem is actually caused by their sleep apnea. This trend underscores the importance of getting a diagnosis from a professional. Trying to treat one without treating the other can actually make the problem worse.

Signs and Symptoms

One difficulty in diagnosing co-occurring sleep disorders without an overnight sleep study is the overlapping symptoms. They can both cause:

  • Excessive daytime drowsiness 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Poor memory retention 
  • Difficulty staying asleep through the night 
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • An increased risk of motor vehicle and industrial accidents

However, if you have sleep apnea in addition to your insomnia, you may notice some additional issues.

  • Loud, persistent snoring 
  • Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth 
  • Abruptly and repeatedly waking up at night 

If you have a sleep partner, this individual may notice that you snore loudly at night, and that you wake up periodically, gasping for air. It’s common for patients with sleep apnea to be unaware that they’re waking up dozens of times each night.


People tend to self-diagnose insomnia, but this is problematic when it’s accompanied by sleep apnea. When sleep apnea causes insomnia, it’s essential to treat this underlying cause, rather than masking the symptoms with over-the-counter sleep aids. A provider can perform a sleep study to record your respiration, snoring, and heart rate while you snooze.


People with occasional insomnia may benefit from over-the-counter or doctor-prescribed sleep aids. However, these medications can worsen obstructive sleep apnea because they can relax the tissues around the throat. After being accurately diagnosed with these co-occurring sleep disorders, you can use a CPAP or oral appliance therapy to treat your sleep apnea. This will correct the underlying cause of your problem.

Insomnia and sleep apnea are two of the sleep disorders we treat here at Sleep Dynamics. Our skilled sleep medicine specialists in Central New Jersey look forward to meeting you, and discussing your unique health challenges and solutions. You can request our next available appointment by calling (848) 217-0240.