It’s normal to snore occasionally – perhaps when you are suffering from a cold or after you’ve had a few drinks at a party before going to sleep. But what if you, like millions of Americans, snore regularly night after night? Are you suffering from a debilitating sleep disorder that can significantly affect all aspects of your life, or are you harmlessly sawing logs?
Sleep Apnea and Snoring
By Clark O. Taylor, M.D., D.D.S.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, 45 percent of the population snores occasionally and one in four adults snore chronically. At the same time, an estimated 18 million people across the country suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which has been linked to a bevy of health issues including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
The Difference Between OSA and Snoring
All too often, snoring and sleep apnea are confused or thought of as interchangeable. In truth, while all untreated OSA sufferers snore, only some people who snore have sleep apnea.
Snoring is simply a sound caused by a vibration during breathing. The vibration is the result of a partially blocked airway in the mouth, nose, or throat. Snoring can be caused by a number of different factors, including:
- Sinus infections or colds.
- A deviated septum.
- Poor muscle tone.
- Throat and airway obstructions.
Snoring is a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when a person has multiple pauses in their breathing pattern during sleep. These interruptions in breathing can cause disturbed sleep, interrupted sleep, and light sleep. In turn, a lack of restful sleep can cause a litany of other health issues, such as extreme daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, depression, and anxiety.
Have a Sleep Study to Diagnose OSA
While evaluating your symptoms and risk factors for sleep apnea may be useful, the most accurate way to definitively diagnose and treat your possible sleep apnea is to meet with a doctor. In most cases, your regular doctor will evaluate your symptoms and medical history before referring you to a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist will evaluate:
- Your symptoms.
- Your medical history.
- Your current physical health.
- Your sleep study results.
A sleep study analyzes both how you sleep and how your body responds to issues related to sleep. These studies, which may be conducted at a sleep center or at home, record your vital signs, the amount of oxygen in your blood, the air movement through your system, your brain activity, your chest movements, and your snoring.
A sleep study accomplishes more than simply diagnosing your OSA–it will also determine the severity of your condition. The sleep study and the physical exam may also shed light on the cause of your OSA, such as extra-large tonsils or other obstructions.
If Snoring Affects Your Life, Seek A Solution
It is vital to understand that even if you are not diagnosed with sleep apnea, snoring could still be adversely affecting your partner, the restfulness of your sleep, and your overall health. Talking with your doctor about your chronic snoring, a formal diagnosis, and effective treatments may lead to improvements your health, whether or not your snoring is caused by sleep apnea.