Snoring. And Sleep Apnea.

Snoring can be a indicator of Obstructive Sleep Apnea but it doesn’t mean that everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Snoring by itself can be disruptive, annoying and an irritation. Snoring AND sleep apnea can be life threatening.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea? Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that intermittently causes breathing to cease during sleep. When breathing, a physical obstruction occurs in the airway, limiting the amount of oxygen needed to reach the lungs. In attempt to catch one’s breath again, harsh snoring or choking noises are heard.

Oxygen deprivation temporarily awakes a person from sleep, although many people are still not in a conscious state when they continually awake. This cycle of falling asleep, snoring and choking, then waking up can be repeated a few times or hundreds of times throughout the night. This continual cycle of oxygen deprivation can have long-term detrimental effects such as the development of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.

How does airway obstruction occur? The obstruction in the airway is typically seen when tissue in the back of the throat collapses.  This can be a result of the muscles of the upper airway relaxing during sleep. For those who sleep on their backs, gravity can also play a harmful role during sleep. Gravity can cause the tongue to fall back and obstruct the airway, leaving one gasping for air, choking and snoring.

What is snoring? Snoring is very common- an estimated 50% of people snore at some point during their lives. Snoring occurs when the extra tissue in the back of the throat vibrates during the flow of breathing. It can increase as age advances or can simply be hereditary.

If you are unsure if the snoring you hear from a loved one is sleep apnea, you should look for many associating indicators, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, gasping or choking during sleep, pauses in breathing, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, moodiness, irritability or depression.

More than 40 million Americans are estimated to suffer from a sleep breathing disorder and 20 million suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Despite the high prevalence, 93% of women and 82% of men with moderate to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea remain undiagnosed (National Sleep Foundation). Testing for a sleep breathing disorder is critical to getting yourself or a loved one on the path of better health. If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms that have been described above, please contact us immediately for help.

Snoring can be annoying, but sleep apnea is life-threatening.