Sleep apnea is a common medical condition. Snoring is one of its main characteristic symptoms. However, not everyone who suffers from sleep apnea starts snoring. It’s also important to remember sleep apnea is not the only reason people snore.
What Will I Learn?
Why Do People Snore?
Snoring is an audible signal of problems with airflow while sleeping. That loud, unpleasant noise that so often keeps people’s partners awake at night is generally due to vibrations in the tissues at the back of the throat.
More often than not, a lot of the blame can be put on the uvula. That’s the strip of tissue that resembles a speed ball dangling from the top of your throat.
An elongated palate can cause snoring too. As can nasal obstructions or an elongated tongue.
Certain factors can make snoring more likely. For instance, if you allow yourself to become overweight or obese it increases the likelihood of snoring.
This is due to excess fat applying pressure around the throat area. This can obstruct airflow, causing the throat tissues to vibrate.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that generally involves abnormal pauses in breathing. Apnea is the technical name for such pauses.
People who suffer from sleep apnea may also have episodes of unusually slow breathing while they are asleep. These episodes are known as hypopneas.
Apneas can be the result of insufficient respiratory effort while sleeping, a restriction in airflow, or both.
The Three Different Types of Sleep Apnea
You may be surprised to learn there is more than one form of sleep apnea. The most common one is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA is the result of a physical restriction in airflow. People who have OSA are rarely aware they suffer from a condition that interfering with their normal breathing during sleep.
Their partners may be unaware of it as well so they are unlikely to feel guilty if they reward all that snoring with an elbow in the ribs.
However, in some cases, people’s partners do notice the difficulty. This, of course, can be the main reason some OSA suffers seek medical advice.
Sadly, a lot of OSA suffers remain blissfully unaware of what’s going on during their sleep. However, there are still generally daytime symptoms that signify the condition is there.
Even if their OSA does not cause them to become fully awake it can still sabotage the quality of their sleep.
This can cause daytime fatigue and it’s not uncommon for OSA sufferers to take one or more naps during the day.
Due to their fatigue, OSA sufferers may also fall asleep while watching television or driving their car. Needless to say, the latter can present particularly dangerous situations.
2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
CSA happens when the brain fails to signal the muscles and let them know it’s time to take a breath. With CSA there are no obstructions present in the airways. The problem is solely due to signaling errors.
Sleeping at high altitudes can cause CSA. However, it’s often the result of another medical condition such as heart failure or stroke.
Several symptoms may signal the presence of CSA. People who suffer from this rare sleep disorder may wake up suddenly and find themselves gasping for breath.
Some sufferers find sitting up in bed helps alleviate their shortness of breath.
As with other forms of sleep apnea, CSA can cause daytime fatigue. It can also cause insomnia, chest pain, and morning headaches.
Although it can happen, snoring is not generally a defining symptom of CSA.
3. Mixed Sleep Apnea
As the name suggests, Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of sleep apnea types one and two (OSA + CSA). It’s also known as Complex Sleep Apnea.
Sometimes people who are controlling their OSA by sleeping in an oxygen mask attached to a special CPAP machine suddenly find they have to cope with CSA as well.
Mixed Sleep Apnea was identified in 2006 at the illustrious Mayo Clinic. The researchers conducted a study involving 223 patients who were thought to be suffering from OSA. The data revealed 15% of them had CSA as well.
How Common is Sleep Apnea and Snoring?
Sleep apnea is slightly more common in men (3-7%) than it is in women (2-5%). It doesn’t sound like a lot when you look at the percentages but sleep apnea affects more than 100 million people (worldwide).
Snoring is more common than sleep apnea. Estimates suggest up to 50% of adults do it.
Of course, in some cases, the snoring may be due to sleep apnea but most people who snore do not do so for this reason.
How to Find Out If Your Snoring is Due to Sleep Apnea
There’s only one way to find out if your snoring is caused by sleep apnea and it’s a pretty obvious one. You will need to visit your doctor, who may then refer you to a specialist sleep clinic.
If your doctor refers you to a sleep clinic you may have to spend one or more nights sleeping there. During your stay, you will be attached to machines that monitor various body functions while you are sleeping
Monitored activity will likely include muscle and brainwave activity, eye movements, heart rhythm, and oxygen saturation.
Alternatively, the specialists at the sleep clinic may send you home with a portable machine you can use in the comfort of your own bed.
The treatment options for sleep apnea and snoring are many and varied. Some of them involve invasive surgery, others can be as simple as making a few lifestyle changes such as eating less and losing weight.
If you or your partner suspect you may have sleep apnea, a doctor should always be your first point of call.
If your snoring appears to be due to some other reason, such as a nasal obstruction, or an overly dry mouth.
There are many over-the-counter products that may help. There are also some homeopathic snoring remedies that have a mixed success rate. Using oils such as rosemary or fennel are great for easing congestion that can lead to snoring
However, if you spend some time reading a few of the other articles on this site you will find a number of other possible solutions to your problem.