Difference Between Apnea and Dyspnea (With Table)

Breathing is an essential function of our body and having problems in breathing causes so much difficulty in our lives. If it is not cured at early stages, it may also lead to complicated problems. There are many types of breathing problems but two which occurs more frequently are apnea and dyspnea.

Apnea vs Dyspnea

The main difference between apnea and dyspnea is in sleep time. Apnea causes the breathing process to completely stop during the sleeping time while dyspnea causes troubles or interrupts the breathing process during the sleeping time. When breathing is stopped completely, it is called apnea and when there is difficulty in breathing, it is called dyspnea.

Apnea is the cessation of breathing only during sleeping time. When you have apnea, the movement in the lungs muscle will stop and the volume of the lungs remains the same. The flow or exchange of gases with the outside environment gets disrupted or stopped. Hence, lungs will cease to perform their function of breathing.

Dyspnea is a difficulty in breathing that can occur at any time. Most of the time, it is caused as a reaction to the high level of carbon dioxide intake. In cases of jogging or weight lighting, it results in overexertion and leads to an elevated intake of carbon dioxide. Hence, it creates difficulty or trouble in the process of breathing.

Comparison Table Between Apnea and Dyspnea

Parameters of Comparison




It is the complete cessation of breathing.

It is the difficulty or interruption in breathing


Occurs only during sleeping time.

Occurs anytime, day or night.


Caused due to sleep apnea normally but can also be caused due to other neurological problems.

Caused due to respiratory or heart diseases, overexertion, and anxiety problems, etc.


Loss of chest movements, choking during sleeping, and loud snoring, etc.

Shortness of breathing, suffocation, reduced blood pressure, and excessive sweating, etc.

Interruption of breathing

Apnea causes complete interruption of breathing.

Dyspnea causes partial interruption of breathing.

What is Apnea?

Apnea is the complete cessation of breathing during sleep. It is commonly caused by sleep apnea and neurological problems. During an apnea, the movement of muscles in the lungs ceases and the process of exchange of gases oxygen and carbon oxide from the outside environment ceases. Hence, it stops the person from breathing during sleeping times.

The symptoms of Apnea are loss of chest movements, choking, loud snoring during sleep and suffocation, etc. It is highly advisable to visit the doctor and get it cured in the early stages as these types of problems need surgical solutions and hardly could be cured at home. Apnea can also be caused due to heightened feelings of emotions like loud or breathless crying. It is a short-time apnea and can be cured easily.

Generally, apnea will be first diagnosed in childhood and can be cured by visiting the ENT specialist. Apnea can also be caused due to stress and anxiety which leads to the malfunction of the lungs. Normally, a healthy person cannot store much oxygen inside the body and apnea leads to the lower circulation of oxygen in our body as the function of exchange of gases will be ceased to perform by the lungs.

Hence, it is highly advisable to visit the doctor and get it cured in the early stages of feeling the symptoms of apnea.

What is Dyspnea?

Dyspnea is the shortage or partial interruption in breathing at any time, day or night. It is commonly caused due to respiratory or heart diseases and even anxiety problems. But sometimes, it may also be caused due to overexertion or elevated intake of carbon dioxide in cases of jogging or lifting weights. Hence, it causes trouble or difficulty in the breathing process.

The symptoms of Dyspnea are shortness of breathing, suffocation, sudden drop in the levels of blood pressure, excessive sweating, and trembling of bodies, etc. Since dyspnea is caused due to internal problems in our body, many scientific or laboratories test had to be done to confirm dyspnea. In addition to this, many other tests will be done to find out the cause of dyspnea in order to avoid this problem in the future.

The treatment of dyspnea will depend upon the causes that lead to dyspnea. However, one common cure could be a supply of oxygen as dyspnea means the shortness of oxygen in our body. Supply of oxygen is more like basic first-aid to dyspnea and the additional treatment will be carried out depending on the severity of the disease.

Hence, it is highly advisable to visit the doctor and get it cured in the early stages when you feel the symptoms of dyspnea.

Main Differences Between Apnea and Dyspnea

  1. The difference between apnea and dyspnea is that apnea leads to the complete cessation of breathing while dyspnea leads to the partial interruption of breathing.
  2. Apnea occurs only while sleeping whereas dyspnea can occur at any time.
  3. Dyspnea is caused due to neurological problems whereas apnea is caused due to respiratory or cardiac problems.
  4. There are variations in apnea which are Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Central Sleep Apnea Mixed Types whereas there are no variations in dyspnea.
  5. Apnea is the complete interruption of the breathing process up to 10 seconds or more during sleeping whereas dyspnea is the difficulty in breathing at any time.


Both apnea and dyspnea are normal conditions that affect or interrupt our breathing process. Both are commonly caused because of the malfunction of lungs due to the internal issues of our body like neurological or cardio problems and also anxiety or stress etc. Initially, the first-aid treatment for these two conditions is the supply of oxygen as these are mainly caused due to the low supply of oxygen in our blood.

Hence, it is highly advisable to visit the doctor at the early stages of feeling the symptoms and can be cured easily. The treatment of apnea and dyspnea depends on the severity and causes of them.


  1. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.me.27.020176.002341
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012369210605983
  3. https://www.medical.theclinics.com/article/S0025-7125(05)00134-3/abstract