What's the Difference Between Snoring & Sleep Apnea?

SnoringMan.jpgSnoring and Sleep Apnea often get mentioned in the same breath by many health care providers, but what’s the difference in the two? Are these two terms interchangeable? Is one worse than the other? Let’s take a look…

Snoring is the term used to describe the sound that occurs when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. The sound of snoring occurs when the structures in the part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula strike each other and vibrate during breathing. Regular heavy snoring can contribute to larger health issues beyond daytime sleepiness and fatigue, like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke if left untreated.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a more serious condition characterized by multiple episodes of breathing pauses greater than 10 seconds at a time, due to upper airway narrowing or collapse. The key difference between sleeping and OSA are these episodes of not breathing, which can be very concerning for the person suffering from OSA and their bed partner. This lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood, causing the heart to work harder, and disrupts the natural sleep cycle, which causes you to feel poorly rested - even if you spent the right amount of time in bed. The long-term effects of OSA can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and many other medical problems.

The two issues are often related, as snoring (particularly heavy snoring) is a symptom of OSA. While some occasional light snoring may be less concerning, snoring that occurs often and disrupts your sleep requires medical attention. If you or a loved one is dealing with snoring or poor sleep quality, see a doctor as soon as possible. At Ashford Clinic, we specialize in treating snoring and other sleep issues. We understand that every patient has different needs, and take the time to determine exactly what the root cause and best course of action is for our patients.