Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are closely related, but are not identical conditions. Not all patients who snore will present with sleep apnea; however, all patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea will count loud snoring as one of its more prominent symptoms.
The first step to treating snoring and sleep apnea is to determine the extent, nature, and severity of the issue, then help you understand your condition and your options for treatment.
Snoring is common, and affects people to varying degrees. Some patients snore only occasionally, and may stop by shifting positions. Others may snore more frequently as a result of nighttime habits (like smoking or drinking alcohol) or one or more underlying conditions (like a large neck, large oral tissues, obesity, etc.).
By contrast, obstructive sleep apnea affects fewer people than common snoring, though it is more common than many patients realize. Sleep apnea (from the Greek “apnoia,” which means “absence of respiration) occurs when tissues gradually block the airway completely while you sleep.
As oral tissues block more of your airway, your snoring will grow increasingly louder, and then grow silent as the airway closes and your breathing stops. The moment can last for up to ten seconds or more until your body and brain panic from the lack of oxygen.
During an apneic episode, your body will “wake up” just enough to clear your airway and start breathing again; yet, the slight interruption will not typically rouse you from unconsciousness, and you may believe that you slept soundly throughout the night.
Common Causes of Snoring/Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, describes a physical obstruction in your airway caused by over-relaxed and/or abnormally sized oral tissues. Likewise, snoring is the sound of your throat walls and tissues vibrating violently due to the increased air pressure as your airway becomes constricted. Patients who snore may have trouble receiving an adequate amount of oxygen as they sleep; patients who snore as a symptom of OSA, however, will repeatedly stop breathing altogether throughout the night, often without realizing it.
Our downloadable sleep questionnaire will help us determine your likelihood of sleep apnea (including whether or not you’ve already been diagnosed), as well as gauge your recent quality of sleep through the Epworth Sleep Scale.
For a more accurate diagnosis, we can supply you with a take-home sleep study that will help gauge how often you wake up throughout the night, even if you don’t realize it.
Symptoms of OSA
For many patients, the loud snoring associated with OSA can be disruptive enough that a sleeping partner or other family member prompts them to seek treatment. Aside from the snoring, there are also several symptoms that can manifest while you are awake, and can hint at the presence of a sleep disorder like OSA. Some of these symptoms include:
- Chronic daytime fatigue
- Difficulty with memory and/or concentration
- Unusual irritability; frequent mood swings
- Falling asleep, sometimes repeatedly, throughout the day
- Chronic headaches/migraines, especially in the morning
- Persistent dry mouth
- Sore throat, though you do not become sick
- Heartburn and/or acid reflux
- Becoming sick more often (due to a weakened immune system)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Mental health issues; depression
- Decreased sexual drive; impotence
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and heart failure
While some people may be more at-risk for obstructive sleep apnea than others, the truth is that the sleep disorder may affect virtually anybody for a variety of reasons.
Still, you can gauge your likelihood of having or developing OSA by comparing your health and lifestyle to certain common risk factors:
- Abnormal oral tissues (i.e., large neck, narrow airway, large tonsils or base of the tongue, etc.)
- Chronic sinus/nasal congestion
- Genetics (if a family has it, then you may be genetically predisposed to high risks of OSA)
- Smoking tobacco
- Drinking alcohol excessively, or too soon before going to bed
In a word, yes! Sleep apnea shouldn’t be brushed off as just another bullet point on a list of sleep problems or sleep disorders. Sleep apnea side effects are very real, which is why we recommend seeking treatment as soon as possible.
Sleep Apnea Side Effects
Sleep apnea side effects amount to so much more than a bad night’s sleep. Sleep apnea can have a dramatic impact on your ability to function as well as your overall health.
Sleep Problems Lead to Poor Function
The most immediate and obvious sleep apnea side effects include snoring, which can disrupt your sleep as well as the sleep of the people around you. As anyone who has ever had a restless night’s sleep can tell you, a bad night can dramatically impact your mood and work performance the next day. You may even have memory problems.
Sleep is also crucial to your overall mental and physical health, which is why sleep disorders can be so debilitating. If your sleep apnea is keeping you from sleeping well, your quality of life isn’t as high as it could be. By conquering your sleep problems, you’re taking a big step towards better health.
As well as ruining your rest, some of the sleep apnea side effects include dangerous, long-term maladies. Sleep apnea is one of the more dangerous sleep disorders because it can lead to conditions like high blood pressure or other heart problems.
Sleep apnea means that you’re experiencing sudden drops in oxygen as you sleep, which puts a strain on your cardiovascular system. Dealing with this strain over a long period of time can be very damaging for your heart, resulting in hypertension or an increased risk for recurrent heart attacks.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk of becoming insulin-resistant and developing type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea can also lead to complications during surgery, which can draw out recovery times and increase the risk of the surgery itself.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition, and must be taken seriously. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, contact us today! We can help you figure out your next step and have you sleeping better soon.