Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is blocked during sleeping, causing periodic pauses in breathing, MedlinePlus states. If the upper throat muscles are too relaxed, they can compress the airway, triggering symptoms such as loud snoring, gasping and struggling to breathe.
People with sleep apnea display a pattern of disruptive snoring followed by silence when their airways are narrowed, according to MedlinePlus. Other bed partners and roommates are more likely to notice gasping and snorting, while the affected individual is usually unaware of being unable to breathe. However, the condition causes increased drowsiness, fatigue, headaches, forgetfulness and irritability, so many individuals notice a change in energy level and frequently fall asleep during sedentary activities.