How Do You Know If It’s Snoring or Sleep Apnea?

Perhaps a friend or significant other has woken you up in the middle of the night because of your ear-splitting snore. Maybe someone mentioned it after a weekend at the cottage. Now that your nighttime symphony has been brought to light, you start to wonder if it’s just the occasional snoring brought on by some extenuating circumstance or is it a sign of sleep apnea.

Almost everyone snores now and then and it’s not a definitive indication of sleep apnea, but there is an association between the symptom and sleep disorder. So, what signs should one look out for in case it could be obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

The Snoring

There are many reasons as to why you’re producing the dulcet sounds at night. It could be caused by the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and your weight. Personally, it tends to happen more often on vacations when exhaustion sets in after a long day of sight seeing and walking.

When deep sleep is achieved, those throat tissues will relax, thus partially blocking your airway. This blockage can vibrate while you inhale and exhale, creating that familiar snoring sound. While the occasional blockage may not be a concern, you may want to visit the doctor if your bed partner notices loud snoring with pauses in breathing, sounds of gasping or choking during sleep.

Other Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, while snoring itself is not an indicator for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you may want to book an appointment with your primary physician if it’s accompanied by the following symptoms.

-Daytime sleepiness

-Loud snoring followed by silent pauses

-Gasping or choking during sleep

-Morning headache

Health Problems Caused By Sleep Apnea

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to more than just a poor night’s rest. Those affected can find themselves experiencing complications like the ones listed below from the Mayo Clinic.

-Frequent frustration or anger

-Difficulty concentrating

-A greater risk of high blood pressure, heart conditions and stroke

-An increased risk of behaviors problems, such as aggression or learning problems in children with OSA

-An increased risk of motor vehicle accidents due to the lack of sleep

Lifestyle Changes That Can Help

Treatment is dependent on the severity of your sleep apnea, bet it mild, moderate, or severe. It’s best to consult your doctor, who may then send you to a sleep disorder center for further testing. Once diagnosed, you may be prescribed the most common sleep apnea treatment; continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). 

Besides treatment via CPAP, APAP or BiPAP, lifestyle changes can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms and in some milder cases, may even get rid of the symptoms altogether. Below are a few things you can try at home:

-Weight loss

-Increase physical activity

-Sleeping on a reguilar schedule

-Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and some pain medications

-Sleep on your side

-Stop smoking

To ascertain if you really have sleep apnea or if you’re just an average snorer, maybe try recording yourself the next time you sleep or visit a physician if friends have already made the issue apparent.