Although snoring is commonly associated with sleep apnea, not everyone who snores has this disorder. The majority of the adult population snores at some point in their lives, and 25 percent snore habitually. However, if you are a habitual, or chronic snorer, and you snore loudly and excessively, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
People who snore loudly, excessively, and wake often at night with a grunt, or coughing and choking, are often sleep apnea sufferers. However, if you snore occasionally, and it’s not particularly loud or disruptive, then you probably do not have sleep apnea. The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud and excessive snoring. If your sleep partner has sleep apnea, they may sound as if they are struggling to breath several times throughout the night. Other symptoms include:
- Frequently “micro-awakenings”
- Gasping or choking upon awakening
- Morning headaches
- Morning dry mouth and/or sore throat
- Daytime sleepiness
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling irritable, or having mood swings, or personality changes
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is the sudden obstruction of your airways due to the relaxation of the oral tissues of your soft palette and throat. When these tissues relax and they partially block your airflow, they rattle when air passes through and that sound is what we call snoring. However, the blockage is not “partial” for sleep apnea suffers. The tissues block the airway completely causing them to stop breathing until their brain signals them to wake up. That is when they wake and quickly inhale air which causes the choking or gasping sounds. In most cases, the patient is unaware that any of this happens. Therefore, if you suspect that your sleep partner, or someone you know has sleep apnea, bring it to their attention ASAP so they can seek immediate treatment.