Sleep apnoea or snoring? How to assess the difference…

Sleep apnoea or snoring? How to assess the difference…

Most people will snore from time to time, some loudly!  Almost half of us snore on a regular basis, but this doesn’t automatically mean we have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea or OSA.  Snoring is definitely one of the symptoms of OSA, but just because you snore, it doesn’t mean you have sleep apnoea and snoring itself is usually harmless. However, if your snoring is accompanied by waking during the night with a feeling of choking or gasping for breath and a feeling of tiredness throughout the day, you should speak to your GP about a sleep apnoea test. There are also private options like ours.

What Causes Snoring?

When you sleep your mouth, nose and throat become relaxed and snoring is the sound caused by the vibration of air passing through these relaxed areas.  As your airways relax and become more narrow, air being forced through causes a vibration and the end result is the snoring noise we make.

Some physical things are also known to cause snoring, such as nasal congestion or a blocked nose, nasal polyps which can affect breathing, large tonsils and being overweight.  Other lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol or your sleeping position may also affect snoring. 

Snoring or sleep apnoea?

Unlike OSA, normal snoring doesn’t interrupt your breathing while you sleep and you shouldn’t stop breathing repeatedly at night.  The only way to tell with a degree of certainty, if you suffer from loud harmless snoring or if you actually have sleep apnoea is by completing a sleep test over a few nights.  If sleep apnoea is ruled out, at least you can then start to investigate the actual cause of your snoring if it’s becoming a problem for you or your partner.  If snoring isn’t linked to OSA and doesn’t cause you to feel tired during the day because you wake you through the night, there shouldn’t be any harmful effects – except a partner who can’t sleep due to your loud snoring of course and this can be a tricky one to address!

Depending on the cause of your snoring, treatment can have a positive outcome.  Lifestyle changes are usually the first thing you should try, looking at diet and exercise, reducing alcohol, stopping smoking or even changing your sleeping position.  There are many different anti-snoring treatments available to buy without the need for a prescription, and some people may also consult their dentist to be assessed and fitted with something called an oral mandibular device which will help keep airways open during sleep.

Getting help for snoring or sleep apnoea

Whatever the case for you, you should consult your GP if you have not been able to treat your snoring yourself, as they will be able to help you find a suitable treatment option.  It would be helpful to any clinician to understand just how bad your symptoms are, so try and write down a list of all the things you consider a problem using this helpful checklist of questions:

  • How often do you snore?
  • Does it wake you or your partner during the night?
  • Is snoring just one of the symptoms you have?
  • Do you wake at night gasping for breath?
  • Does your partner tell you that you stop breathing for a time while you sleep?
  • Are you tired the following day or do you drop off to sleep while watching TV or taking a break?
  • Do you find it difficult to concentrate?
  • Do you drink alcohol regularly before bed?

Snoring can be troublesome but on its own is quite often, harmless.  If you suffer any other symptoms however alongside snoring, it would be beneficial to test for sleep apnoea.

How can we help you?

If you would like to chat with us for some help and advice about home sleep apnoea testing, please do get in touch.

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