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Snoring and Sleep Apnea: What You Should Know

By Manjari Bansal
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are both caused by a collapse in the throat muscles during sleep.

Do you or your partner frequently snore while you sleep? If so, an evaluation for sleep apnea may be necessary. While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, there are certain symptoms that often co-occur with snoring when a person has sleep apnea. Read on for important details about this disorder and its negative effects on your nighttime breathing.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

“Snoring, the most common sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is reported in up to 94% of patients with OSA,” Aniko Dunn, PsyD, a psychologist at EZCare Clinic in San Francisco, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Snoring is when you make hoarse or sharp breathing sounds while sleeping. It happens when the air you’re inhaling causes the tissues in the back of your throat to vibrate. Almost everyone snores occasionally, and in some cases, it can be related to OSA.

“Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are related in that they both occur when the airway at the back of the throat collapses during sleep,” Adam Sorscher, MD, sleep health director at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, N.H., tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“If the airway collapses a little but a person is still able to breathe effectively, then we call it snoring. If the airway collapses entirely or almost entirely such that a person could not draw sufficient oxygen and blow off carbon dioxide, we call that an apneic event,” Sorscher explains.   

According to Mayo Clinic, although snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea, some snoring is unrelated to sleep apnea. However, if you snore and you also have any of the following symptoms, it may indicate sleep apnea:

  • Noticeable breathing pauses during sleep
  • Gasping or choking sounds at night
  • Daytime drowsiness or lethargy
  • Morning headaches
  • Chest pain at night
  • Fitful sleep

“In less common instances, you can have sleep apnea without snoring being present,” Abhinav Singh, MD, medical director at Indiana Sleep Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“An example of sleep apnea without snoring is central sleep apnea, where the brain forgets to send signals to the diaphragm, which primarily controls breathing. This can happen because of medications or brain lesions, among other things,” Singh explains.

Think you may have sleep apnea? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.