The two terms, snoring and Sleep Apnea, often get confused and mixed up. All of us snore at least once in our lifetime, but it is not as common for us to be diagnosed with sleep apnea. With distinct symptoms for each of the terms, it is easy to determine which of the two you possess.
Whether you’ve been woken up due to your partner’s snoring, or they have been woken up due to your snoring, it is a sound you just can’t ignore. Snoring is ultimately due to obstructed air movement during breathing when sleeping. In turn, the respiratory structures start vibrating, which is the noise you are able to hear. The obstruction of breathing is often caused by an elongated soft palate, a large tongue or obstruction in the nasal cavity, or the uvula (the tissue that hangs in the back of your throat).
Sometimes sleep apnea is accompanied by snoring, but not necessarily. Sleep apnea is most easily known by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. This can happen because of a physical blockage of airflow, or a lack of respiratory effort. The most common apnea is when there is a physical blockage of airflow present—this is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
It is rare that individuals with this disorder notice a difficulty in their breathing. Oftentimes it is recognized by the individual’s partner or by someone who sleeps in the same room. People with OSA are fatigued during the day, and don’t feel refreshed upon waking up in the morning. It is also common for patients with OSA to fall asleep watching television, take naps during the day, and it may even affect their work performance.
What to do Next
In order to establish where you stand on the snoring vs. sleep apnea scale, it could be beneficial for you to participate in a sleep study. A sleep study will monitor your body functions including brain activity, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rhythm, and oxygen intake. A sleep study can take place at a sleep center, or you can take a home testing device and monitor your sleep in the comfort of your bed.
Treatment is available, but it varies from person to person due to the severity of the sleep apnea or snoring. Treatment can range from airway pressure devices and oral appliance therapy, all the way to surgery. Talk to your dentist today to discuss your options for treatment!