Sleep Apnea and snoring are often mistaken for being one and the same. But in reality, they are actually quite different. Loud snoring is often a symptom of sleep apnea, but it is not necessarily the cause.
In a sense, both problems have the same source – but you can have snoring without sleep apnea, and you can even have sleep apnea without necessarily hearing much in the way of snoring.
But how are they related? In this post, we are going to talk about that.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
There are technically two different types of Sleep Apnea. There is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA… and Central Sleep Apnea. There is also a type called Mixed Sleep Apnea, which is actually a condition in which the individual suffers from both types at the same time… but anyway, these are the two basic types of sleep apnea.
For the purposes of this article, however, we will be talking specifically about OSA.
According to an article that was published on MedicalNewsToday.com, Sleep Apnea is “a common sleep disorder in which an individual’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Symptoms include daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and restless sleep.”
It is estimated that about 1 out of every 5 adults has mild symptoms of the disorder, while 1 out of every 15 suffers from moderate-to-severe symptoms.
The disorder is caused by the soft tissue and muscle that lines the airway and the back of the throat. When we sleep, this tissue relaxes… and sometimes, it can collapse in and block the airway due to the vacuum created when we breathe.
If this happens, our breathing can actually become blocked for 10 to 30 seconds… resulting in an ‘apnea,’ or a ‘break’ from breathing.
How Is This Different From Snoring?
Snoring is most commonly caused by the exact same phenomenon, actually. When we sleep, the soft tissue and muscle in the back of our throat and airway relaxes… but in this case, it only partially obstructs the airway. But it does vibrate as the air passes in and out, which is what causes the noises that we have come to associate with snoring.
This usually happens when we suffer from sleep apnea as well. The only difference is that sleep apnea closes off the airway, while snoring just partially obstructs it… making a lot of noise in the process.
This is why a very common symptom of sleep apnea is actually snoring. Because if the tissue in the back of the throat is that loose, you are generally bound to cause some ‘vibration’ when you breathe.
Do The Same Treatments That Work For Snoring Work For Sleep Apnea?
This is a tricky question. Sometimes, the answer is yes – because they are actually very similar problems. But sometimes, the answer is a no – mostly because it’s actually a lot more difficult to treat OSA than it is to treat snoring.
There are also sometimes more factors that go into snoring. For example – nasal blockage can contribute to snoring, so nasal strips might actually help to treat it, while nasal strips would never help with sleep apnea, because that’s not where the problem is.
Sometimes, snoring isn’t rooted in the nose at all – and in those cases, nasal strips would be equally as useless as they would be for sleep apnea.
There are some devices that are actually built and tested for sleep apnea, that also work for snoring. One example is some different types of mandibular advancement devices. Most of these devices are not advertised for being treatment options for OSA… though there are models that are, and those models can also help to treat snoring.
So really, it depends on the treatment.
Lifestyle changes can help with both snoring and sleep apnea. Losing weight, eating a healthier diet, working out, and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes can do a lot to help reduce your odds of snoring and suffering from sleep apnea… as can staying hydrated. Even avoiding sleeping on your back can sometimes make a difference.