Is Snoring Caused By Sleep Apnea? The Answer May Surprise You!

Heavy snoring is not enough to diagnose yourself or a sleep partner with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If you notice loud snoring and shortness of breath during sleep, schedule an appointment with Dr. Mistry to learn more about sleep apnea. He will listen to your symptoms and help you navigate a diagnosis of sleep apnea. In the meantime, here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to snoring and sleep apnea:

Snoring Is Not The Same As Sleep Apnea

Snoring is not always caused by sleep apnea. Snoring is simply a disturbance of the soft tissues of the airway and respiratory structures during sleep. Turbulent airflow through the mouth and nose can cause these tissues to vibrate, causing the rasping noise associated with snoring.

Sleep apnea, on the other hand, is caused by soft tissues of the mouth and throat collapsing during sleep and cutting off proper breathing. The tissue sags and blocks the airway, often for up to 10 seconds at a time. Sleep apnea can be (and usually is) accompanied by snoring. However, heavy snoring is not enough to diagnose sleep apnea.

Heavy Snoring Could Indicate Apnea, In Some Cases

So, how can you tell the difference between innocuous snoring, and snoring caused by obstructive sleep apnea? It comes down to looking for breathing interruptions. Heavy snoring that is accompanied by frequent pauses, often ranging from 2-10 seconds in length, is usually a cause for concern. If you notice these issues, you or your sleeping partner may have apnea.  

What Other Factors Can Cause Snoring? 

Other than sleep apnea, what are some common causes of heavy snoring?

  • Weight – If you are overweight, the tissue in your throat and neck may be thicker than usual. This can lead to a higher risk of both snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Sleeping position – Lying on your back can make your respiratory tissues more prone to excessive vibration. Switching to a side sleeping position can help with this.
  • Age – Snoring can often get worse with advanced age due to loss of muscle tone, and a tendency to put on more weight.
  • Smoking – Smoking irritates and damages the membranes in your nose and throat, increasing your risk of snoring. 
  • Alcohol consumption – Drinking alcohol can cause the muscles in your mouth and airway to relax, increasing the likelihood of snoring.
  • Nasal congestion – Nasal congestion and swelling of the throat may contribute to turbulent airflow and snoring.
  • Medication – Sedative medications like sleeping pills can also relax the tissue in the nose and throat, contributing to snoring. 

Know The Difference Between A Snore And Sleep Apnea! 

Sleep apnea is a much more serious issue than snoring. While heavy snoring can be annoying and irritating, it won’t cause any long-term adverse health effects. In contrast, sleep apnea can cause issues like poor quality sleep and drowsiness in the short-term, and increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure in the long-term.

Need help with sleep apnea? Dr. Mistry will work with your sleep specialist in Chapel Hill to create an oral appliance that can help with both snoring and sleep apnea. To learn more, contact us at (919) 338-7010 now, or stop by our office at 26 Knox Way, Suite 400, Chapel Hill, NC 27516.

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