Though they have many similar symptoms, sleep apnea and snoring are very different problems. Here, our dentists explain how you can differentiate between the two.
Quite often, people who suffer from sleep apnea don't actually know that they have it; they think they’re just snoring.
Sleep apnea and snoring do feature certain common elements: They're both related to breathing problems during sleep, they can be related to other health problems, and they can disrupt sleep, for example. But there are some important distinctions between the two.
What is snoring?
Snoring is a vibration in the respiratory structures that occurs as a result of obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. The obstruction is often caused by the uvula, an elongated soft palate, a large tongue, or nasal obstructions.
Although snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, not everyone who has sleep apnea will necessarily snore.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is characterized by shallow breathing or abnormal breathing pauses during sleep. These pauses or "apneas" can happen because of a physical blockage to airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or a combination of the two. Obstructive sleep apnea, the kind that is caused by such a blockage, is the most common.
People who have sleep apnea can go for some time being completely unaware that they have a problem and it is often the person’s sleep partner who first points it out.
How can I tell if I have sleep apnea?
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may often feel fatigued and sleepy during the day. This can negatively impact work performance, general vigilance, and staying motivated in your day to day life.
The only way to know out for sure if you have sleep apnea is to undergo an assessment by a medical professional. Your doctor or dentist can positively diagnose you, and get you the help you need to achieve a better night’s sleep.