What to Know About Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Is your partner’s snoring keeping you awake at night? Millions of men and women of all ages – and even many children – snore. The sound of “sawing logs” can be annoying, but it can also signal sleep apnea, a more serious sleep disorder. Nearly half of all snorers have obstructive sleep apnea.

People who snore rarely realize they do unless their weary-eyed bed partner tells them. Even those with sleep apnea are usually unaware of their problem. If you are the one lying awake at night with earplugs, there are clues whether your loved one’s snoring is just snoring or sleep apnea.

Snoring or Sleep Apnea?

Snoring occurs when the muscles of your throat relax and your tongue falls backward, causing the walls of your throat to vibrate. The smaller the airway gets, the louder the sound. Obstructive sleep apnea goes even further: the throat closes completely causing breathing to stop and start repeatedly during the night.
difference-between-snoring-sleep-apnea

Risk Factors for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

You are more likely to snore or have obstructive sleep apnea if you:

  • Are older than age 30
  • Are a man or postmenopausal woman
  • Sleep on your back
  • Use alcohol or sedating medications (like muscles relaxants or pain relievers)
  • Are overweight or have excess weight in your neck
  • Have enlarged tonsils, adenoids, nasal polyps or a deviated septum

A snorer usually stays asleep, but someone with sleep apnea may wake up for brief periods throughout the night (usually with no memory of the awakening). Other symptoms of sleep apnea: pauses in breathing while sleeping, choking sensations at night, daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, morning headaches, dry mouth or throat and weight gain.

Impact on Your Health

Snoring and sleep apnea, in particular, have been linked with other health and personal problems.

  • Memory loss, decreased attention and alertness, nodding off while driving
  • Skin and brain aging
  • Worsening chronic health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart failure
  • Increased risk for heart attack, stroke, certain cancers, and sudden death
  • Release of stress hormones which can contribute to weight gain
  • Relationship problems (tired, crabby bed partners)

Whether you’re the one snoring, or your loved one is keeping you awake, don’t lose another moment’s sleep. Seek help from your health care provider and get a sound, refreshing night’s sleep.

Meet the Author

Tracy Slater, NP is a Nurse Practitioner at Marinette Menominee Clinic in Marinette, Wisconsin.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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