Is Snoring Always an Indicator of Sleep Apnea?

Nearly 90 million people in Houston and throughout the country snore; fortunately, not all of these individuals have sleep apnea.

What is Snoring?

Snoring and Sleep Apnea in Houston
Snoring occurs when the air flowing through the nose and mouth is obstructed.

When you sleep, your tongue, throat muscles and soft palate relax. If they relax too much, they can droop backward and block the airway, vibrating together when you breathe. This causes the telltale noisy sounds associated with snoring. The more the airway is obstructed, the louder the snoring will be.

There are several factors that increase the odds you will snore. People with bulky throat tissue or an enlarged soft palate are more at risk for snoring, as are those who experience frequent nasal congestion, have a deviated septum, nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, as well as those who drink alcohol before bedtime.

The typical snorer is overweight, male and over the age of 40. Snoring tends to worsen with age. In some individuals, the airway becomes so obstructed that breathing is interrupted; this leads to a serious medical condition known as sleep apnea.

Besides noisy breathing, those who snore may also experience:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Restless sleep

There are different factors that can cause snoring, but it can also be a sign of a more serious medical condition called sleep apnea.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that affects one in 15 Americans, with most cases going undiagnosed. It occurs when a person experiences one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while asleep. These pauses can last a few seconds to a few minutes. Generally, breathing begins again and is sometimes accompanied by snorting or choking.

The types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.
  • Central Sleep Apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe.

Symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes of breathing pauses during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Attention problems
  • Irritability

This serious condition can lead to a number of serious complications, including high blood pressure or heart problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and stroke or liver problems.

While those who snore do not always have sleep apnea, the two are often related. Because of this, your Houston otolaryngologist will often recommend a sleep study, just to make sure.

Contact your Houston otolaryngologist for more information.

 

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