Determining whether you are suffering from sleep apnea isn’t always easy. Fatigue and irritability are common symptoms of this condition, but they could be related to other sleep problems. While waking up gasping for breath during sleep is a tell-tale sign of sleep apnea, most people fall asleep so quickly after they wake up that they don’t even remember it in the morning.
Your bed partner will usually be the one who notices your symptoms during the night. This may include gasping for breath or choking, but more often than not, the most immediately apparent sign of your sleep disorder is snoring.
Yes, snoring. The cliche problem that keeps a person’s spouse up at all hours of the night, and sometimes even forces them to go sleep on the couch so they can simply fall asleep.
As it turns out, snoring is quite often connected with sleep apnea. Understanding whether your snoring is a sign that you have sleep apnea is essential for ensuring that you get the CPAP therapy you need to control your condition.
How Does Snoring Happen?
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, snoring affects roughly 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women on a regular basis. Snoring is more likely to occur as you get older.
Regardless of the root cause behind the snoring, the actual reactions that occur in the body to produce the sound are the same. The sleeper’s throat tissues relax as they sleep. This partially blocks the upper airways, which causes vibrations when they breathe in and out. The tighter the airways become, the more intense the vibrations — and the louder the snoring gets.
Most people who snore don’t realize that they have a problem unless their partner complains of it — however, this happens quite often. A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 38 percent of people report having relationship problems resulting from a partner’s sleep disorder.
While you can wake yourself up by your own loud snoring in rare circumstances, the person who will be most bothered by it is your partner. As Michael J. Breus writes for Psychology Today, “Snoring can put great strain on relationships. A snoring problem often creates not only tiredness but also frustration and resentment between couples. It can interfere with sexual and emotional intimacy, and can push couples to sleep in separate bedrooms.”
Snoring & Sleep Apnea
By understanding how snoring works, it is easy to see how it is so often linked to obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, the breathing passages eventually close off entirely as the throat muscles relax. This cuts off the flow of oxygen to the body, which will eventually cause you to wake up, choking or gasping for breath.
As your breathing passages tighten prior to a sleep apnea episode, your throat forms that narrow passageway that causes snoring. Those with severe obstructive sleep apnea may experience over 30 such incidents in a single hour, causing them to snore and wake up throughout the night.
However, just because you snore, doesn’t mean you necessarily have sleep apnea. So how can you be certain that your snoring is connected to obstructive sleep apnea? The easiest sign is when your partner reports that you were gasping or choking in your sleep, in addition to snoring loudly.
If you don’t share a bedroom with anyone, pay attention to other common symptoms associated with sleep apnea. Morning headaches, experiencing difficulty concentrating, or excessive fatigue, moodiness, and depression are all related to sleep apnea. This goes beyond simply feeling a little tired one morning because you stayed up too late. These symptoms will appear on a consistent basis, and may get so severe that they interfere with your ability to perform your daily tasks.
If you think you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, visit a sleep medicine physician. Based on your symptoms, they will likely recommend that you either complete a home test or an in-lab overnight sleep study. Testing equipment will monitor your breathing patterns, heart rate, and so on throughout the night to determine the severity of your condition.
Long-term, untreated sleep apnea can contribute to a wide range of severe health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and depression. The sooner you act to control your sleep apnea, the lower your risk will be for these future health complications.
Other Causes of Snoring
While snoring is frequently associated with obstructive sleep apnea, loud snoring doesn’t mean that you have sleep apnea. While most cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea remain undiagnosed, most estimates peg the number of people in the United States who suffer from this condition at around 22 million to 25 million.
There are a lot more than 25 million people in the United States who are habitual snorers!
For many, snoring is the result of genetics or the aging process. People with close family members who snore are more likely to snore themselves. Snoring also becomes more prevalent with age because of the way aging relaxes the throat muscles.
Certain physical abnormalities can also increase the frequency and severity of snoring. Common issues that can contribute to snoring include enlarged tonsils, a long soft palate or uvula, or a deviated nasal septum. Physical ailments, such as the congestion that results from allergies or a cold, may also cause temporary bouts of worsened snoring.
Lifestyle factors can also come into play. Consuming alcohol or taking muscle relaxants before bed can increase your likelihood of snoring. Individuals who are overweight or obese are also more likely to snore because of the excess fatty tissue around their necks, which contributes to the closing off of the throat muscles. Smoking and sleeping on your back may also increase your risk for snoring.
Interestingly, sleep deprivation can also play a role in worsening snoring. When you fail to get enough sleep, your throat muscles will relax even more the following night, making you far more likely to snore loudly.
While many of these risk factors make you more likely to be a loud snorer, it is worth noting that many of them are also linked to obstructive sleep apnea. For example, studies estimate that anywhere from 25 to 45 percent of obese individuals experience obstructive sleep apnea — a rate much greater than the general population. Sleeping on your back or consuming alcohol before bedtime have also been found to worsen sleep apnea symptoms for many with the condition.
Controlling Snoring & Sleep Apnea With a CPAP Machine
Regardless of whether your habitual snoring is directly related to sleep apnea, it is important that you take measures to address it. After all, you don’t want poor sleep to negatively affect your health and relationships — your partner’s. Thankfully, there are several options available to get your snoring under control.
If a sleep study confirms that your snoring is related to sleep apnea, your best bet is to invest in a CPAP device. CPAP machines blow a steady supply of air through a tube. The user wears a mask that helps deliver the air to their nose and/or mouth. Masks should provide a comfortable, yet close fit that prevents air leaks. The best mask for your needs will vary based on your nighttime breathing habits and sleep position.
The ideal pressure setting will vary from person to person based on the severity of their sleep apnea. Your doctor will use sleep study data to set your pressure levels, though these can be adjusted if they prove ineffective or uncomfortable. A BiPAP device takes things a step further by reducing air pressure during exhalation for added comfort. Auto-adjusting machines are also available. These monitor your breathing patterns throughout the night and continually adapt air pressure delivery as needed.
While it may take some time to get used to a CPAP machine, remaining fully compliant with your therapy plan is essential if you want to see lasting results. Some users find it helpful to practice wearing their CPAP mask before going to bed so they can get used to the way it feels on their face. If you experience a sore throat or dry nose after using your CPAP machine, use a humidifier unit to increase moisture in the delivered air.
Remember, using a CPAP machine won’t just help you stop snoring — it could also help you avoid more serious sleep apnea-related problems like a heart attack or type 2 diabetes.
Other Methods For Controlling Snoring
Because snoring isn’t always related to obstructive sleep apnea, buying a CPAP machine may not be necessary for your situation. For most people, simple behavioral changes can go a long way in controlling their snoring — and many of these can also reduce the severity of sleep apnea.
For many people, simple behavioral changes can make a big difference. Losing weight can be quite helpful for those who are overweight or obese. Not only can this reduce the severity of snoring, but it also lowers your risk for developing sleep apnea and other weight-related conditions.
Because sleeping on one’s back can increase the likelihood of snoring, others may benefit by sleeping on their side instead. There are actually products available that can help train you to sleep on your side rather than your back. Reducing consumption of alcohol or other relaxants before bedtime will also help mitigate snoring. These actions can also help reduce the severity of sleep apnea.
If behavioral changes don’t help, you may require some form of addition treatment. Some people need to use an oral appliance (similar in appearance to a retainer or mouth guard) that helps hold the tongue in place during sleep. A dentist can help produce an oral appliance custom-fitted to your mouth so that it effectively stops snoring.
In severe cases, those whose snoring is the result of a physical deformity may require surgery to stop extreme snoring. Surgeries may be performed to adjust your bone structure or reposition the tissues affecting your breathing in a way that will address severe snoring. However, all surgical procedures come with inherent risk. You should do your research and consult with your doctor regarding the potential negative outcomes of a surgical procedure, while also looking into less invasive (and less costly) alternatives.
It’s always best to work with a sleep physician as you try to counteract your snoring habit. By receiving professional advice geared to the unique needs of your body, you and your doctor will be able to find a safe and effective solution to help you stop snoring.
A Better Night’s Sleep For You & Your Partner
The snoring that results from untreated sleep apnea can prove detrimental for both you and your partner. Sleep apnea keeps you from getting fully rested, while your snoring keeps your partner from being able to fall asleep. This greatly increases your likelihood for being irritated and fatigued in the morning, while also raising your risk for the long-term health issues associated with poor sleep.
Needless to say, if your snoring is related to sleep apnea, investing in a CPAP machine will make a world of difference for both you and your partner. And No Insurance Medical Supplies is here to help.
We offer a wide range of CPAP and BiPAP machines from top brands like Philips Respironics, ResMed, and Human Design Medical. Many of these devices are available at significant discounts off MSRP, making it much easier to afford your equipment — especially if you don’t have insurance to help cover the costs.
Additional savings opportunities are available thanks to our selection of refurbished/certified pre-owned machines, which are sold for even lower prices. We also offer free shipping on orders over $89, and financing is available so your purchase can be split into more affordable monthly payments.
Sleep apnea-fueled snoring doesn’t have to keep you and your partner from getting the rest you need! With the help of a quality CPAP machine from No Insurance Medical Supplies, you will get the treatment needed to control your condition so you both can enjoy better sleep and health.