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Does Snoring Always Mean You Have Sleep Apnea?

man snoring in sleep

You may have heard that snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder. But does that mean if you snore, you definitely have sleep apnea?

What is snoring?

Snoring is the sound that’s made when air flows past the tissues in the back of your throat. It happens when the tissues relax and drop down, blocking the airway and vibrating when you breathe during sleep.

What causes snoring?

Snoring can be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Your mouth anatomy – Your airway may become blocked if you have a low, thick soft palate (the fleshy part of the back of the mouth), have extra tissue because you’re overweight, or have another anatomical issue.
  • Obstructed nasal airways – These airways can become obstructed because of a cold, allergies, or sinus infection. An anatomical issue such as a deviated septum (crooked wall of bone and cartilage between your nostrils) or nasal polyps (grape-like benign polyps on the inside of your nose) can also cause snoring.
  • Alcohol consumption – Especially before bedtime, too much alcohol consumption relaxes the throat muscles so they may block your airway.
  • Sleep position – Sleeping on your back narrows your airway.
  • Sleep deprivation – A lack of sleep can relax your throat too much.

What symptoms are associated with snoring?

Snoring can be associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder. It can cause the following symptoms:

  • Repeated pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up at night making gasping or choking sounds
  • Morning headaches
  • Dry mouth when you wake up
  • Difficulty remembering and concentrating
  • Irritability

Does it mean I have sleep apnea?

Snoring isn’t always associated with sleep apnea, but if you have chronic loud snoring, you should talk to a doctor about the possibility. In addition to its symptoms, sleep apnea has also been associated with an increased risk of chronic health issues such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

A sleep doctor can discuss your medical history and symptoms with you and conduct an examination. If a structural problem such as a deviated septum is suspected, an imaging test such as an X-ray may be performed.

A sleep study (also called polysomnography) is used to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of sleep apnea. This test is performed in a sleep lab or sometimes at home, and you’ll be hooked up to sensors that will record what happens to your body during sleep. This includes your brain waves, oxygen saturation levels, heart rate, and breathing rate. Based on this data, your sleep doctor can make or rule out a diagnosis of sleep apnea.

How is it treated?

Sleep apnea can be treated in a number of ways, with the most conservative, non-invasive methods being tried first.
Treatments include the following:

  • CPAP machine – delivers a low, steady stream of air to help keep your airway open
  • Oral appliance – custom-designed plastic mouthpiece that gently moves the tongue and/or jaw forward to keep the airway open
  • Procedures – including minimally invasive and inpatient or outpatient surgeries. These can correct problems such as a deviated septum (septoplasty) or other issues.

If you suffer from chronic snoring, make an appointment today with eos sleep of New York, New York. If necessary, we’ll conduct a sleep study to gather the information needed to make an accurate diagnosis. This will help us create an individualized treatment plan to help you sleep easier.

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