Snoring Versus Sleep Apnea – The Differences and Similarities

Do you snore? Do you experience daytime sleepiness or wake-up feeling unrested? If you answered yes to either of these, chances are you are being robbed of oxygen repeatedly during the night but do not remember it upon waking. Besides the obvious dangers caused from lack of oxygen, the health risks associated with lack of proper rest are many, and can be fatal. So while you may think you are getting 8 hours of sleep each night, if you are being disturbed repeatedly as your body is fighting for oxygen, the truth is you’re no where near that 8 hours. It’s likely you’re not even getting half that since the only sleep that counts as “restorative” are those hours spent in the REM stage. Consequently, REM sleep is also the stage in which our muscles are most relaxed and when these episodes are likeliest to occur.

What Causes Snoring and Sleep Apnea?

Snoring and OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) both involve the soft tissue in the back of the throat becoming too relaxed. In the case of snoring the soft tissue, while not completely blocking the airway is in the airway path. As air hits the tissue with each breath it flaps, much like a flag does when the wind blows, causing the loud sound snoring is known for. But during apneic episodes the soft tissue collapses, causing a full or near full blockage of the airway, triggering gasps or choking in response to the bodies lack of oxygen. There are many things that can contribute to snoring and OSA. See the physical and non-physical contributors below.

Physical Contributors

  • thick neck circumference, or long narrow neck
  • excessive weight
  • nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
  • large tonsils/soft tissue
  • deviated septum
  • large tongue
  • small jaw bone
  • overbite, orthodontics with extraction of teeth
  • family history of snores
  • age

Non Physical Contributors

  • drinking alcohol
  • sleep deprivation
  • certain sleep positions
  • certain sleep aids or medications
  • smoking

And while snoring and sleep apnea aren’t always associated with one another, snoring over a long period of time is likely to evolve into apnea


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