Are Snoring and Sleep Apnea the Same

While snoring can be an isolated phenomenon, it is often associated with a sleep malady known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

sleep apnea

OSA is intermittent airflow blockage during sleep. The distinctive difference between benign snoring and OSA is that people suffering from OSA experience roaring snoring accompanied by periods of silence when breathing almost stops or, in some cases, actually stops. The pauses in breathing can last from mere seconds to minutes and might cause you to awaken with some loud snorts or gasping sounds.

Sleep apnea disrupts your sleep pattern and makes it difficult for you to sleep soundly. This cycle of breathing pauses may occur as many as five times during every hour of sleep throughout the night.

Symptoms

If you snore, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have OSA. However, if observed breathing pauses accompany your snoring during sleep and, you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, it may be time you see a doctor for further assessment for OSA.

Some other signs that you should be on the lookout for include; 

  • Heavy and annoying snoring that interferes with your partner’s sleep, 
  • Frequent snoring three or more times per week, 
  • Snoring amidst gasping, choking, or snorting sounds,
  • Restless sleep,
  • Waking up with a sore throat,
  • Poor concentration,
  • Headaches, especially in the morning,
  • Chest pain at night,
  • High blood pressure.
  • Poor attention span, behavioral problems, and poor performance in school are some of the critical signs to look out for with kids.

Causes of Snoring

Various factors can cause you to snore when sleeping. Anything that narrows your breathing passages can cause snoring.

When you fall asleep, you transition from light sleep to deep sleep. During this process, the muscles in the soft palate (roof of your mouth), tongue, and throat relax. Sometimes, your throat tissues can relax so much that they partially block your airway and vibrate.

The narrower your airway, the more forceful the airflow will be, causing tissue vibration, which leads to loud snoring.

Other conditions that can upset the airway and cause snoring include; the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, your weight, alcohol intake, allergies, or even a cold. 

Your mouth anatomy and weight: A low, thick, and soft palate can narrow your airway, especially if you are overweight. Excess weight can result in more tissues at the rear end of your throat that may make your airways smaller. Sometimes the uvula (the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate) is overly extended, cutting off airflow to be cut off and vibration to increase.

Alcohol: Consuming too much alcohol before bedtime can cause snoring. Alcohol calms the muscles in the throat, making it hard for your body’s natural defenses to prevent airway obstruction.

Lack of sleep: Insomnia or lack of adequate sleep can cause more throat relaxation, leading to snoring.

Nasal problems: If you have persistent nasal congestion or a crooked partition between your nostrils (deviated nasal septum), you are more susceptible to snoring.

Sleep position: Sleeping on your back can cause recurrent and louder snoring since the pull of gravity on the throat narrows the air passage.

Risk factors

Some of us are more susceptible to snoring than others. Various risk factors contribute to this include; 

Gender: Studies show that men snore more than women and are more likely to have sleep apnea than women, primarily due to their upper airway anatomy. 

Weight: Being overweight or obese can cause snoring or obstructive sleep apnea, generally due to neck fat which compresses the upper airway when you are lying down.

Narrow airway: Narrow airways can result from having large tonsils, a long soft palate, or large adenoids and can cause snoring.

Nasal problems: Your risk of snoring is greater if you have a deviated septum or a severely congested nose. 

Alcohol: When you drink too much, your throat muscles relax, raising the risk of snoring.

Heredity: If snoring or obstructive sleep apnea runs in the family, you have a higher risk of snoring or getting OSA.

Complications

All snoring can be a nuisance and disruptive to your partner’s sleep. However, persistent snoring can also be a sign of OSA, putting you at risk of many other complications. These include;

  • A higher risk of heart problems, stroke, and high blood pressure,
  • Behavior problems, such as aggression or learning difficulties in children with OSA,
  • Daytime sleepiness,
  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • Higher risk of causing road accidents owing to lack of sleep, and
  • Constant frustration or anger.

When to see a doctor

While most snoring is harmless and can be stopped using anti snoring devices, you may want to seek medical attention if;

You feel tired and lethargic all through the day, or if you don’t feel rested after sleeping for your usual 8 hours, you should seek medical advice. Also, if you regularly wake up with a headache or find it extremely difficult to kick start your day in the morning, you should see a doctor.

Lastly, if you snore and have other health issues like high blood pressure, you should seek medical advice.

Conclusion

Getting ample rest at night is vital for your health. A fine line separates regular snoring Sleep Apnea. The two are, however, quite different. While one is pretty harmless, except for being a nuisance, the other poses a serious health risk. Therefore, you must not dismiss snoring as natural and get the necessary help from a medical professional. It’s about time you and your partner enjoy quiet nights again.

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