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Understanding the Difference Between Sleep Apnea and Snoring


Dealing with snoring is one of those things that’s often dismissed as merely a nuisance or a sign of aging. People will go years without giving it much of a second thought, only to eventually learn that they’ve been dealing with sleep apnea all along. If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious health consequences, so it’s important to understand the difference between these two conditions.

Primary Snoring

An estimated 90 million American adults snore during sleep, and 37 million report dealing with snoring on a regular basis. While many people associate the sound of snoring with the nose, it’s actually caused by turbulence and vibrating tissues in the back of the throat. When the muscles in the back of the throat relax during sleep, the airway becomes smaller. This disturbs the airflow, causing the uvula and soft palate to vibrate against the throat.

There are a number of different conditions that can cause snoring—from nasal problems to alcohol consumption to simply the anatomy of your mouth. In some cases, however, snoring is one of the telltale symptoms of sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea

There are three different types of sleep apnea, but this post will focus on obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common.

One of the key differences between primary snoring and sleep apnea is that when people are dealing with sleep apnea, they wake up abruptly to the sensation of choking or gasping. The sound of the snores reflects this sensation, and occurs loudly and frequently throughout the night.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:

• Excessive daytime sleepiness

• Insomnia or restless sleep

• Irritability, forgetfulness or difficulty paying attention

• Waking up with a dry throat or mouth

• Morning headaches

Managing Sleep Apnea

If you exhibit any of these symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important that you consult a doctor as soon as possible so that you can receive a proper diagnosis and begin necessary treatment. Managing sleep apnea is relatively easy with the use of a CPAP machine, which continuously blows gentle, pressurized air through the airway to prevent your throat from collapsing when you breathe.

Do you have a loved one who snores during sleep? If so, be sure to pass this article along so that they can better understand the difference between snoring and sleep apnea.

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