Is Snoring Caused by Sleep Apnea?

Woman covering her ears in bed trying to tune out the sound of her husband snoring

We've all been here at some point, sleeping in the same room as somebody who snores loudly and constantly. If unused to a loud snorer, it can seem so unnatural to hear and can make it hard to fall asleep. When you're lying awake at night, trying to ignore the sound of the snoring but are unable to, I'm sure the thought has crossed your mind, "this can't be healthy!" Turns out, you may be right!

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What Causes Snoring?

To put it simply: snoring is caused by an obstruction of the airflow to your lungs when you breathe. The sound that you hear is the vibration of the loose structures in the back of the mouth and nose against the throat. If the muscles become too relaxed, the soft tissues will partially block the airflow and vibrate with normal breathing, causing the sound of snoring. Snoring is unhealthy if it disrupts the normal sleeping pattern of you and those in close proximity. When snoring is disruptive to your natural sleep, this is called obstructive sleep apnea.

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed by episodes of breathing pauses while sleeping. The pause is caused by the obstruction of the airflow when the muscles become too relaxed, and actually restricts airflow altogether. This pause triggers your brain to wake up and take a deep breath to make sure you are able to breathe again. Many times, the patient does not realize or remember waking up to do so, but the affect is still the same on your sleep cycle. This pause in breathing can occur anywhere from 30 to 300 times a night. No wonder those who suffer from sleep apnea are so tired!

If you snore, it is not always an indicator of sleep apnea, but if you snore very heavily it is probably a good idea to get evaluated by Dr. Hedgecock. Another indicator of sleep apnea is a lull in breathing and then a gasping sound followed by a deep breath. A partner or someone who sleeps near you can confirm this, but if you don't have anyone who can help, it can be detected during a sleep study at Sleep Better Austin.

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