Snoring is Different Than Sleep Apnea
Snoring and Sleep Apnea often get confused and mixed up a lot, which means not everyone will understand if their condition is worse than it seems. Even though we don’t want to admit it, all of us have probably snored at least once in our lifetime. And, while that is the case, it is not as common for us to be diagnosed with sleep apnea. With distinct symptoms for each of the terms, it is easy to determine which of the two you possess.
What is Snoring?
Snoring can be loud and unpleasant — and may make your significant other the target of some light-hearted joking — but it can also be a sign of an alarming condition referred to as obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by an obstruction of the upper airway. Whether you’ve been woken up due to your partner’s snoring, or they have been woken up due to your snoring, it is a sound you just can’t ignore.
Snoring is ultimately due to obstructed air movement during breathing when sleeping. In turn, the respiratory structures start vibrating, which is the noise you are able to hear. The obstruction of breathing is often caused by an elongated soft palate, a large tongue or obstruction in the nasal cavity, or the uvula (the tissue that hangs in the back of your throat).
Snoring generally involves the softer structures of the throat and nasal passages obstructing the airway during sleep, which is why it’s so often tied to sleep apnea as an early symptom. Irregular airflow can also factor into sleep deprivation and can be caused by a number of possible structural issues, including:
- The muscles of the throat relaxing during sleep
- A mispositioned jaw
- The tissues of the airway touching and creating vibrations
- Sleeping on your back, which may result in your tongue dropping to the back of your mouth
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sometimes sleep apnea is accompanied by snoring, but not necessarily. Sleep apnea is most easily known by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. This can happen because of a physical blockage of airflow, or a lack of respiratory effort. The most common apnea is when there is a physical blockage of airflow present—this is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
It is rare that individuals with this disorder notice a difficulty in their breathing. An individual’s partner or someone who sleeps in the same room will often notice symptoms first. People with OSA feel fatigue during the day, and don’t feel refreshed upon waking up in the morning. It is also common for patients with OSA to fall asleep watching television, take naps during the day, and it may even affect their work performance.
To establish where you stand on the snoring vs. sleep apnea scale, it is important to participate in a sleep study. A sleep study works to monitor your body functions including brain activity, eye movements, heart rhythm, and oxygen intake. It can take place at a sleep center, or you can take a home testing device and monitor your sleep in the comfort of your bed.
Only a licensed professional medical provider can give you an accurate diagnosis and administer treatment of sleep apnea. That treatment doesn’t have to involve obstructive CPAP machines. Treatment with a dental appliance will reduce and often eliminate snoring for that individual by improving airflow during sleep.