Sleep apnea and snoring may appear to be the same thing, but they are not. Our Lethbridge dentists explain the distinctions and why they matter.
Many people with sleep apnea are unaware of it and believe they are simply snoring. This is a common blunder because snoring is one of the primary symptoms of sleep apnea. Furthermore, both snoring and sleep apnea can be associated with other health issues, and both can disrupt sleep.
However, there are some important differences between the two.
What is snoring?
Snoring is essentially vibrations in the respiratory structures that occur when air movement during sleep is obstructed. Snoring can be caused by several factors, including an elongated soft palate, the uvula, a large tongue, or nasal obstructions.
Although snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. And of course, many people who snore don't have sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by irregular breathing pauses during sleep. These pauses in breathing (called apneas) can be caused by a physical obstruction to airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or a combination of the two. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (caused by a blockage).
How can I tell if I have sleep apnea?
People who suffer from sleep apnea are often first made aware of it by their partners, who notice the pauses in breathing.
If you feel tired during the day and notice that your work performance, general vigilance, and ability to stay motivated have declined, it could be a sign that you are suffering from sleep apnea.
The only sure-fire way to determine if you have sleep apnea is to be assessed by a professional. A qualified medical professional can positively diagnose you, and get you the help you need.
Do I need treatment for sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is more than just an inconvenience. It is associated with serious health risks. Those suffering from this condition are jolted out of deep sleep when their breathing stops, resulting in poor sleep quality. It can also cause the release of stress hormones, alter the way your body uses energy, and cause you to feel tired and sleepy during the day. Furthermore, there are several potential negative health effects of insufficient sleep, including weight gain, memory loss, skin ageing, and others.
Sleep apnea may also lead to a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, certain cancers, and even sudden death.