Is Snoring the Same as Sleep Apnea?

By Dr. Anuj Chandra, Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders

September 30, 2020 — Some of the same things happen in your body during both snoring and sleep apnea, but they are definitely not the same thing. The muscles in your upper airway relax a little when you fall asleep. If you sleep on your back, gravity can make your tongue fall backward. As a result, your airway becomes narrower and less air makes it all the way to your lungs.

Slight narrowing of your airway causes snoring when the tissues in the back of your throat vibrate.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when your airway briefly becomes completely closed and breathing pauses temporarily. OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea.

Maybe you’re thinking “a pause doesn’t sound so bad,” but those pauses can last several seconds, and they can happen hundreds of times throughout the night. Those little pauses add up to a lack of oxygen and frequent partial awakenings that can have major negative consequences for your health.

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Unfortunately, about 80 percent of people with OSA have never been diagnosed, so they have never been treated.

These are some signs of obstructive sleep apnea:
• Loud or frequent snoring
• Choking or gasping in your sleep
• Feeling sleepy during the day
• Headaches in the morning
• Trouble concentrating

These things increase your risk for obstructive sleep apnea:
• Overweight
• High blood pressure
• Being over age 40 (but children and young adults can also have OSA)

If you think you or a family member might have OSA, talk to your doctor so you can be tested. Obstructive sleep apnea needs to be treated, because you need healthy sleep just as much as you need good nutrition and exercise, and because untreated OSA can lead to serious diseases.

If you need help with your sleep, call us at (423) 648-8008.

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