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Recognizing the Differences Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea

In some cases, snoring is more than just a nuisance. In fact, it may be a symptom of a much more serious sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. But how can you tell the difference between primary snoring and sleep apnea?

First, it’s important to understand what sleep apnea is and what causes it.

There are three different types of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, OSA “is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.” As a result of this, OSA sufferers stop breathing while they’re asleep. This can happen hundreds of times each night and last for a minute or longer each time.

While snoring is a common symptom of OSA, not everyone who snores suffers from this disorder. Here are some signs to look out for that could indicate OSA, according to

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Morning headaches

Furthermore, the following risk factors are associated with OSA, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • Being male
  • Being over the age of 65
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Thick neck

If you have reason to believe that you may have OSA, there are simple online tests you can take to help you figure it out. Of course, most importantly, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine whether your snoring is the sign of OSA or a more serious issue.

photo credit: SuperFantastic via photopin cc