The Signs of Low Oxygen When Sleeping

Written by cindi pearce
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The Signs of Low Oxygen When Sleeping
Low oxygen intake during the night can have serious ramifications. (Joe Madeira/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

You may be experiencing low oxygen levels at night while you sleep and not be aware of it. Those suffering from lung tissue or lung blood-vessel disorders often experience insufficient oxygen intake at night. Another disease that can cause this to happen is sickle cell anaemia. A common cause of low oxygen at night can be diseases that agitate the lungs, causing inflammation, such as interstitial pneumonitis. Obesity and sleep apnoea are other culprits when it comes to preventing efficient oxygen intake while you sleep.

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The Dangers

When low oxygen is a nightly problem, this can result in brain damage, memory loss, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, brain damage, becoming comatose and it increases your risk of developing diabetes II and various metabolic disorders. When oxygen levels stay too low for too long, this can result in heart failure.


Symptoms of low oxygen levels include blue-coloured toes and fingers and swollen ankles. Other symptoms that you aren't getting enough oxygen at night include being extremely tired during the day, feeling as though you are choking while you sleep, heavy snoring, extreme restlessness during sleep and waking up in the middle of the night gasping for breath.

Behavioural Changes

Lack of oxygen can change a person's behaviour during the day. He may not respond to stimulus or has bouts of fainting. If a person is suddenly no longer interested in things he previously enjoyed, this may be an indication of oxygen deprivation, or a number of other ailments.

Ideal Levels

Oxygen levels should be 88 per cent or higher. Have your doctor check your oxygen saturation, using a pulse oximeter. You can attach it to your finger and leave it on and your oxygen level can be monitored throughout the course of the night if you are in a sleep centre undergoing testing, which medical personnel are supervising. If your arterial blood gas is too high this may indicate that you need to undergo oxygen therapy. Some people need oxygen when they sleep but not during the night.

Sleep Study

If you think you are experiencing low blood oxygen levels at night speak to your doctor about undergoing an overnight sleep study, during which your breathing and oxygen levels are monitored. You may also undergo a testing of arterial blood gas, which shows how much carbon dioxide and oxygen is in your blood.

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