Many people who have sleep apnea are unaware of it and think they’re just snoring. This is an easy mistake to make because snoring is one of the primary symptoms of sleep apnea. In addition, both snoring and sleep apnea can be related to other health problems, 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 happen when air movement is obstructed during sleep. Snoring can be caused by an elongated soft palate, the uvula, a large tongue, or nasal obstructions, among other things.
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 disorder that describes routine and abnormal pauses in breathing that occur during sleep. These pauses in your breathing (called apneas) can occur because of physical blockages of your airflow, a lack of respiratory effort or a combination of those two. Obstructive sleep apnea (the kind caused by a physical blockage) is the most common kind of this condition.
How can I tell if I have sleep apnea?
People who suffer from sleep apnea are generally first made aware of this condition by their partners, who notice pauses in their breathing at night.
If you feel fatigued during the day, even if you slept for long enough the night before, and notice that your work performance, general vigilance and ability to stay motivated have all gone downhill, it may be a sign that you are experiencing disruptions during your sleep because of 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 can be much more than just a nuisance. It carries serious health issues along with it. Those that suffer from this condition will fall out of deep sleep when their breathing pauses, causing poor quality in their sleep. It can also trigger the release of stress hormones, change the way your body uses energy and make you feel tired and sleepy during the day. On top of this, there are several potential negative health issues caused by inadequate sleep such as: weight gain, memory loss, skin aging, and more.
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.