Snoring and Sleep Apnea: What's The Difference

Millions of people in the UK suffer from some form of snoring at some point in their life. Most of these people are primary or “simple” snorers. However, the others may have a severe sleep disorder, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and this condition usually persists for a long time. Understanding what causes snoring can help you search for a solution to silence snoring and treat sleep apnea. 

It's believed that around 45% of adults snore at least today, while about 25% are habitual snorers. This problem is more frequent in men and overweight people and is less frequent in women and people that are underweight. It is also presumed that snoring gets worse with age.

Most of the snorers don't care a lot about this noisy sleeping behavior but it shouldn't be taken lightly at all. This might point out to an obstructed breathing or some other health issues. By the way, those who sleep (better said who try to sleep) in the same room with a "snorer" suffer the most. Even a nudge or elbow can't help here.

snoring couple
It is important to know what snoring and OSA mean, and how they occur. Understanding the difference between these two conditions is the first step in treating them. But, don't try to deal with it on your own; your best choice would be to consult with your doctor or specialist. Once your doctor determines the causes of your snoring or sleep apnea they will be able to give you a solution. That's the key to finding a proper treatment.

What is the Difference Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea?

The vast majority of people treat these as if they are the same condition but they should be treated as two separate conditions since there are major differences between them. People who snore while sleeping may have some form of apnea, however, this isn’t always the case if you snore.

By contrast, not all people who suffer from sleep apnea, snore. This means you could have sleep apnea even though you don't snore. This makes the situation even more complicated. Some factors, like the neck, head shape, large tongue and tonsils, obesity, and aging, can cause both conditions or make them worse. So, what's the difference between snoring and sleep apnea?

Sleep Apnea Causes

Sleep apnea involves either shallow breaths or pauses in breathing (apneas) during sleep. When someone with OSA falls asleep, he or she is prone to stop breathing for a couple of seconds from time to time. There are a few different types but the most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

OSA is caused by a physical blockage of airflow and comes from an anatomic source. Keep in mind that it's a chronic condition that should be taking more serious than "simple" snoring. It is characterized by breathing pauses longer than ten seconds and happens due to narrowing or obstruction of the upper airway.

As a result, there's not enough oxygen in the blood and the heart starts working harder. This condition may cause disorder of the sleep cycle. Patients suffering from apnea may experience such events from 30 to 300 times per a single night.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Most people with this condition aren't aware that they have a problem with breathing at night. However, patients who suffer from OSA feel tired or exhausted during the day despite spending enough time in bed because they are constantly disrupted in their sleep. These people often complain about daytime sleepiness but over the time, they get used to this.

They often fall asleep while watching TV or talking to someone. Likewise, people with sleep apnea like to take naps during the day. A lack of sleep at night can lead to a number of issues throughout the day like impaired job performance and hazardous working or driving. This condition can negatively hurt your motivation, work performance, and vigilance. It can also trigger other cognitive or behavioral effects.

snoring and sleep apnea

What Causes Snoring? 

Snoring is caused by the vibration of the respiratory tract while sleeping. It usually results from an over-relaxed tissue at the back of your through which can block the air movement. Different parts of the respiratory system may give rise to snoring. The most common cause of snoring is an issue with uvula, a fleshy tissue extension that hangs above the back of the throat. But, a large tongue, an elongated soft palate, or an obstruction in the nasal area can also trigger snoring.

snoring solutions

A partial obstruction of the airway, either at the nose or back of the mouth, produces the vibration sound when snoring. In particular, it occurs in the area where the upper throat and tongue meet the uvula and soft palate. During breathing, these respiratory structures touch each other and vibrate, generating what we call snoring.

Snoring can be softer or louder, depending on an individual’s anatomy. It also depends on lifestyle factors like body weight, sleeping position, allergies, diet, and alcohol consumption. 

Are There Any Consequences of Snoring?

Snoring can be embarrassing to some, but most importantly, it can keep your bed partner up at night, leaving them feeling extremely fatigued throughout the day from sleepless nights. It can also deprive you of adequate rest if it suddenly wakes you up in the middle of the night.

Frequent and loud snoring could be a sign of OSA which can lead to long-term, serious health problems. OSA increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. There are also evidences that OSA can lead to atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and certain cancers.

tired throughout day

If your partner is a loud frequent snorer, who chokes, gasps or stops breathing during sleep and feels sleepy during the day, then something's not right. It would be good to take him/her to a doctor for a diagnosis before you begin any treatment. To find the best treatment for your condition, consult with your primary care physician first. If necessary, they will refer you to a doctor specializing in sleep disorders.

Symptoms of Snoring

People who snore usually suffer from the following:

  • Long uvula and/or soft palate
  • Excessive throat tissue
  • Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue
  • Obstruction of the nasal airways

Snoring may also be a sign of a health issue with the adenoids and/or tonsils in children. Kids with large adenoids and tonsils often snore while sleeping. You should talk to an otolaryngologist if your child has chronic snoring. Adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy are two common treatments in such a situation. Those are proven to return "children-snorers" to full health.

How to Treat Snoring and Sleep Apnea

As mentioned earlier, sleep apnea and snoring should be treated as two separate conditions. Heavy snorers need to seek a medical advice to be sure of whether they suffer from a sleep apnea or not. A doctor will examine the nose, throat, neck, mouth, and palate.

The medical examination usually involves the use of a fiber optic scope. Such an examination is capable of revealing the cause of snoring in most cases. It could be a nasal obstruction, an infection, or enlargement of adenoids and tonsils. Sometimes, the doctors conduct a sleep study to determine if OSA has something to do with snoring.

snoring treatment

There are different ways to get that disorder done. Snoring treatments vary a great deal, ranging from lifestyle changes to surgery. Lifestyle alterations include the decrease in alcohol consumption, weight loss, or a change in diet. Other treatments often involve the use of nasal strips, a dental mouthguard, snore vents, or other oral devices. If nothing can't help, the last option is an invasive surgical treatment. Treatment depends on the level of upper airway obstruction and diagnosis.

In most cases, snoring treatment includes dental appliances and airway pressure devices. There are also customized surgeries such as the Pillar Procedure. This invasive treatment involves implantation of polyester strips into the soft palate. It makes the soft palate stiffer and rigid. As a result of that, soft palate produces fewer vibrations and snoring gets reduced.

sleep apnea mask

There are many treatment options for patients suffering from OSA. The most common treatment is known as CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). During this treatment, a blower keeps your airway open while you sleep. This device is connected to a mask (by a tube), which fits over the patient's nose or mouth.

It delivers a continuous small amount of pressurized air into the patient's throat. That positive pressure prevents the airway from collapsing. This way it allows normal breathing during sleep and reduces snoring, too. Yet, some patients with OSA have experienced difficulty using that machine. It may feel inconvenient or uncomfortable.

EPAP (Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure) is a new technology used in treating OSA. It's a great alternative to CPAP and most patients found success with this treatment. It is also clinically proven and FDA cleared. EPAP technology is often used in Theravent (Theravent Advanced Nightly Snore Therapy). Theravent involves a device that makes positive pressure in the airway through nostrils.

Other treatments include Oral Appliance Therapy, Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy, and Thermal Ablation. There are also a variety of custom-fit oral appliances. Surgical treatments may include hyoid suspension, genioglossus advancement, and UPPP surgery. In addition, there are nasal surgeries, tongue advancement surgeries, and pharyngeal surgeries as well.

Improve Your Quality of Sleep Today!

Once you learn about what causes snoring, and the difference between snoring and sleep apnea, you can find the right treatment for each condition. Remember that sleep has a great impact on your health and how you function during the day. That's why you should consult with a doctor if you or your partner have any snoring or sleep apnea symptoms.

The correct treatment that addresses your condition will help you get a restful sleep at night so that you can feel energized throughout the entire day. Check out ESN Products online shop for Anti-snoring devices that can help you get a better sleep at night.