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Snoring: A Tale of Sleep Apnea?

Updated on April 27, 2016


Has anyone ever told you that you snore? Have you awakened at the sound of snoring only to find that you were the culprit of the sound? If so, you are not alone! More than 20-40% of the general population snores and by the way. If you are one who enjoys partaking in an alcoholic beverage from time to time, your chances of eliciting the sound of snoring is seven to eight times greater in individuals who consume alcohol than in those who do not.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring takes place when there is a narrowing or partial blockage of the nasal/oral airway passages leading to the back of your throat.

This narrowing occurs as a result of the soft palate, tongue and throat relaxing. There are a few events that can contribute to this narrowing of the airway such as allergies, asthma or sinus problems. Are you overweight? If so, you should be aware that your weight just might boost your risk for snoring due to the addition of extra soft tissue in those airways.

Do you prefer to sleep on your back? If so, you are highly likely to incite an episode of snoring in this position. Studies show that those who are prone to snoring often trigger an event when sleeping takes place on your back but may dissipate when one changes position to a side-lying position. It can happen during any stage of sleep and does not necessarily occur consistently each time someone falls asleep.

Does your ethnicity boost your risk? Studies have shown that African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics are more likely to snore more often and loudly than Caucasians.

What else might snoring tell us? Snoring may be the first indicator of someone who is suffering from sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea causes individuals to stop breathing or to breathe in shallow breaths, lasting from 10–120 seconds at a time. These pauses can take place as frequently as 30 times or more in a single hour.

Sleep apnea affects 1 in 15 Americans or some where between 12 to 18 million Americans. More than half of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight.

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is most common in the sleep apnea family. OSA occurs when the airway to collapses or become blocked during sleep. When normal breathing resumes, it is often accompanied with a snort, "snoring" or choking sound. This kind of event causes sleep to be very fragmented. Loud snoring is a classic characteristic of sleep apnea. It is important to note however that everyone who does not have sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea takes place when the brain fails to send a signal to the muscles that control breathing. It is common in individuals who suffer from other medical conditions such as obesity, heart failure, Parkinson's disease or people who have suffered from a stroke.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea occurs when central sleep apnea persists or may even emerge when obstructive apnea events subside with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is a newer category of sleep apnea that has only recently garnered a few studies to better understand it.

Sleep apnea is diagnosed using a sleep study test which may be done at home or overnight at a sleep study clinic.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

You may be wondering how one would know that they suffer from sleep apnea given that it is a condition that occurs while you are sleeping? In fact, many go undiagnosed for many years.

People who suffer from sleep apnea do not spend a long enough period of time in deep sleep. This is often driven by the fact that due to the frequent pauses in breathing, not enough oxygen is taken into the lungs and therefore there is a reduction in the amount of oxygen that is circulating in the blood.

These factors combined create the perfect scenario for a few of the following symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Headaches in the morning upon waking
  • Restless sleep patterns
  • Extreme and/or chronic fatigue
  • Feeling sleepy during daytime hours
  • Inability to concentrate or work effectively and efficienctly

Additional symptoms that are not as common may include weakness or numbness throughout the body.

Tips to alleviate symptoms associated with sleep apnea include:

  • Sleep on your side vs. on your back
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, sleeping pills, herbal supplements, and any other medications that make you sleepy
  • Avoid tobacco smoke
  • Weight loss if you are obese or overweight

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

There are a combination of treatments that may be used to manage and treat sleep apnea or sleep apnea symptoms

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP is considered to be the most effective and non-invasive treatment of sleep apnea in adults. A CPAP machine delivers mild air pressure through a nasal mask/pillows to keep the airways open while one sleeps. The machine nor mask breathes for sleep apnea sufferers. Instead, the machine helps to create a flow of air that in turn creates increased pressure to keep the nasal and oral airways open while you are asleep. This is a continuous and constant pressure that remains in place as long as the machine functions. CPAP users must comply with consistent usage for it to be effective.

Mouth Piece

Another option is the use of a dental mouth piece which can help to adjust the jaw and tongue helping to keep the airway open during sleep.


In severe cases, surgery may be an option. In children, the removal of tonsils and adenoids are common. A uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is one form of surgery performed on adults and it involves the removal of the uvula, tonsils and a portion of the soft palate.

Four Cool Sleep Apnea Apps

Ultimately, if you suspect that you or someone in your family suffers from sleep apnea or exhibit symptoms that mimic sleep apnea, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

© 2014 Mahogany Speaks


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