Did you know 90 million Americans suffer from snoring? And as many as half of those people may have a sleeping disorder like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Snoring doesn’t always mean sleep apnea, but it is a key symptom of the condition. If untreated, sleep apnea can cause numerous health complications, some of which are potentially life-threatening.
Knowing the difference between simple snoring and sleep apnea is the first step to treating both.
What’s The Difference Between Simple Snoring and Sleep Apnea?
Snoring happens because throat tissues relax enough that they partially disrupt the airway. These tissues vibrate and make a sound.
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes breathing to stop and start during sleep continually. Sleep apnea refers to a range of conditions, but the most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, when – like snoring – your throat muscles repeatedly relax and block airways during sleep. When the soft tissues in your throat, such as your tongue and soft palate, temporarily relax, your airway is narrowed or closed, and breathing is momentarily cut off.
These sound like very similar descriptions. The important thing to watch out for is the frequency and loudness of your snoring, either by recording your sleep or asking a partner to monitor you. Loud and frequent snoring is an indicator of sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea can stop breathing for 10 seconds or more when they fall asleep. It’s also important to note any unusual reflexes such as gasping, choking, or snorting that follow, as these can also point towards sleep apnea. Both conditions can be affected by obesity, but also tongue size and head and neck shape.
The Health Risks of Snoring
Don’t dismiss snoring as a simple nuisance. While snoring can increase over time, it shouldn’t just be chalked off as a natural part of aging. It should be treated for the sake of the snorer and their partner.
Both snoring and sleep apnea have serious health risks. OSA sufferers move from deep to light sleep when they stop breathing. This reduces sleep quality and triggers stress hormones. Those with sleep apnea are at increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes.
And snoring, whether caused by sleep apnea or not, can have profound adverse effects on a relationship. Partners will often end up sleeping in separate rooms, and the lack of sleep and feelings of separation can create resentment.
Other Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Check if you have sleep apnea while you sleep, has your partner noticed any of the following?
- Making gasping, snorting, or choking noises
- Waking up a lot
- Your breathing stopping and starting
During the day, you may also:
- Feel very tired
- Find it hard to concentrate
- Have mood swings
- Have a headache when you wake up
Sleep apnea can be severe if it’s not diagnosed and treated. Consult your doctor if you have any of the main symptoms:
- Your breathing stops and starts while you sleep
- You make gasping, snorting, or choking noises while you sleep
- You always feel very tired during the day
Getting Treated For Sleep Apnea
If your doctor thinks you might have sleep apnea, they may refer you to a specialist sleep clinic for tests.
You may be given devices that check things like your breathing and heartbeat while you sleep. You’ll be asked to wear these overnight so doctors can check for signs of sleep apnea. You can usually do this at home, but sometimes you may need to stay in the clinic overnight.
When you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will almost always be prescribed PAP therapy. There are several types of PAP machines, depending on the settings your doctor has prescribed.
How Advanced Homecare Can Help You
Since opening as a small team of three back in 2005, our mission at Advanced Homecare has been to provide the very best sleep apnea treatments for our patients.
We specialize in one-on-one relationships. Our office team members and Patient Care Instructors are committed to educating their patients about their condition and understanding each patient’s specific needs.
We’re proud of what we do. Learn how we can help treat your sleep apnea now!