Snoring Vs Sleep Apnea: Exploring 2 Sleep Conditions And How To Talk To Your Doctor About Them

wife closing her ears annoyed by husband's snoring

After a tough day at the gym or a night out with friends, you might be so tired that snoring becomes inevitable. However, this can become a problem if it happens every night. It is essential to know the differences between snoring vs. sleep apnea so you can figure out whether or not you are suffering from a sleep disorder.

Finding out more about snoring vs. sleep apnea is crucial. And it’s important for more than the fact that nobody wants to sleep with a chronic snorer. And this condition may also be linked to major health issues, including vascular disease.

Snoring is one of the major symptoms of sleep apnea. The truth is: this disorder is serious since it can put a strain on your health.

What Is Snoring?

Snoring refers to the harsh or subtle sound you make as you sleep. People snore when the flow of air makes the tissues located in your throat vibrate. This annoying sound usually happens as you breathe air in, and may come from the mouth, nose, or a combination of both.

People can snore during any stage of sleep. But snoring is more common in a deep sleep.

Almost half of humanity snores at specific points in their life. Although many women snore, it is more common in men, and usually runs in the family. Snoring also becomes more regular as you get older.

For many people, sleeping on their back causes them to snore. There are also other factors such as alcohol, colds, and allergies that can result in snoring.

By now, you may already know that your snoring can disturb people sleeping near you. However, your sleep can also be interrupted by your snoring. Despite this problem, many people do not realize that they snore.

Snoring is a major disturbance since it may also lead to dry mouth or throat irritation as you wake up. Although light snoring is not enough to disrupt your quality of sleep, heavy snoring causes serious problems in successfully achieving restful sleep. Snoring may even be a sign of sleep apnea.

Despite all these facts, snoring is normal. And snoring intermittently is no reason for concern unless there are accompanying health issues present.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder which happens when a person’s breathing is interrupted as they sleep. Not enough air reaches your lungs when your airways are blocked. Because of this effect, you may make snoring or choking noises as you try to breathe.

Many people live their lives without treating their condition of sleep apnea. But it if you think you have this condition, check with a medical professional.

People suffering from sleep apnea may stop breathing over 100 times as they sleep. This condition is dangerous since the brain, and the rest of your body will not receive the right amount of oxygen it needs.

In the middle of the night, you may also wake up due to oxygen deprivation in your brain. As a result, you feel tired in the morning, even if you had enough sleep.

You can also feel very fatigued and cannot concentrate properly. Some people even fall asleep unintentionally during the day. This effect happens because you wake up many times throughout the night, even if your body is not aware of it.

There are two major types of sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of this disorder. It happens when there is a blockage in the airway, usually caused by the collapse of the soft tissue at the back of your throat as you sleep.

These muscles in your upper airway relax when you sleep. If you sleep on your back, gravity causes your tongue to fall back, which then narrows the airway even further.

Central sleep apnea

There is also another type of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea. This condition does not involve the blockage of an airway. Instead, it happens when your brain cannot signal your muscles to breathe. The problem makes way for unstable respiratory control.

Snoring vs. Sleep Apnea: Key Differences

Now that you know the distinction between snoring vs. sleep apnea, it is time to explore their major differences. Keep in mind that snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. However, not everyone who snores has this disorder.


To know the differences between snoring vs. sleep apnea, you have to examine their causes.


When you snore, it means that your throat or nose features an obstruction. Because of this problem, the air does not move seamlessly along your airway. This problem produces noise. If your airway is completely blocked, you have OSA.

Partial obstructions in your airway passage may also lead to milder forms of sleep apnea such as upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) or hypopneas.

Many people snore because of muscle relaxants, including alcohol and medications such as sleeping aids to combat anxiety and benzodiazepines.

Snoring is also a symptom of many other conditions besides sleep apnea. These conditions include hypothyroidism, obesity, nasal congestion, abnormal facial development, adenoids, and acromegaly.

Sleep apnea

There are a lot of culprits of sleep apnea. If you are overweight or have a larger neck, you are more prone to this condition. You may also experience sleep apnea if your upper airway anatomy is abnormal.

Sleep apnea can also occur and can be worsened, because of alcohol, drugs, medication, sleeping on your back, REM sleep, and smoking.

A history of stroke, using opioid or narcotic medications, and heart failures may also bring about sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also becomes more common as you pass 65 years old, especially for men.


Snoring and sleep apnea both have consequences, although those of the latter are more severe.


For people who snore, this problem could affect the quality of their sleep. If your breathing is compromised as you snore, this effect may lead to arousals that may wake you up in the middle of the night.

Snoring also increases the risk of narrowing your neck’s blood vessels. This phenomenon is called atherosclerosis. It happens when the vibration directly damages the carotid arteries in the neck.

However, the biggest problem of snoring is the disturbance caused to others, especially when snoring is uncontrollable and loud. You may even be forced to consider a different sleeping arrangement.

Sleep apnea

While snoring’s consequences may be mild, sleep apnea features the opposite. This sleeping disorder has several serious consequences and could be lethal when left untreated.

For example, a person suffering from sleep apnea may be more at risk of stroke. It is also very dangerous to your cardiovascular health and may cause issues such as heart failure, irregular heartbeat, reflux and heartburn, heart attack, and high blood pressure.

Sleep apnea may also be responsible for diabetes, memory or concentration problems, depression, and erectile dysfunction. In rare cases, sleep apnea may even lead to sudden death.

For children suffering from sleep apnea, the risks include stunted or slow growth, decreased intelligence, and hyperactivity.


You cannot expect the treatment for snoring to work for people diagnosed with sleep apnea and vice versa. There are distinct differences in the diagnosis and treatment plans for the two conditions.

So determining which of snoring vs. sleep apnea causes your sleeping issues is the first step.


If you snore for a night or two, there is nothing to worry about. Everyone snores at times. This fact means that snoring may not have a serious underlying cause and will not raise concerns later on.

However, some situations should be monitored, especially when associated with other health disorders.

To evaluate your snoring, you need to visit your doctor. Consider bringing a loved one so the doctor can have a clear idea about your snoring and breathing disruptions if there are any.

You should also consider whether your snoring is related to congestion and sinusitis. Nasal strips can be an effective solution in these cases. If you consistently suffer from mouth breathing or sore throats, the reason why you snore might be that you have adenoids.On the other hand, weight gain, constant tiredness, and cold intolerance suggest hypothyroidism.Your doctor will do a physical examination by assessing your upper airway. Your doctor may measure your neck as well. Medical professionals will also look at your throat, nose, and mouth.To effectively treat snoring, it is important to target its main source. This solution may include major lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and weight loss. Your doctor may even advise you to undergo surgery, especially if you have adenoids or a deviated septum.

If the cause of snoring is an allergy, you may treat it using medication. Or even a mouthguard may help eliminate your snoring issues.

Sleep apnea

Before processing with a treatment plan for sleep apnea, you first have to get a proper diagnosis. This step usually involves careful physical examination by a sleep medicine physician.

You may also have an apnea test, or have an attended diagnostic polysomnogram at a testing center. Other tests you may need include multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT), maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT), sleep logs, Epworth sleepiness scale, or overnight oximetry.

After you’ve confirmed that you have sleep apnea, you can start exploring different treatment options to find the best one for you.

Some individuals choose the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for treatment. This treatment plan requires you to wear a mask which gives you pressurized air to open your airways as you go to bed.Alternatively, you may try positional therapy, surgeries, or using oral appliances.You may also try the bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP). For this treatment, you receive two types of pressurized air through a mask – one as you breathe out, and as you breathe in.

There’s also an available chin strap you can wear to prevent mouth breathing. This treatment is common with CPAP.Doctors may also give you stimulants such as Nuvigil, Ritalin, or Provigil. Some people also love drinking coffee or take regular naps.

Talk to Your Doctor

patient consults doctor about snoring and sleep apnea

Photo by from Pexels

Now that you know more about snoring vs. sleep apnea, you are ready to visit a doctor. Keep these tips in mind as you book your appointment with a medical professional.

Tell your doctor about your symptoms

To maximize your time with your doctor, come prepared. Remember that your doctor will determine whether snoring vs. sleep apnea is the cause of your sleeping issues. It helps to write down the symptoms you are experiencing so you won’t forget anything.

Also let your doctor know your health history, including the medicines you are taking and what they are for.

Ask to do tests

If you have not been tested for sleep apnea before, you may ask your doctor about the diagnosis methods listed above. As well, you may wish to inquire which treatments they think will work best for you.

Ask how to contact the doctor

To make contacting your doctor easier in the future, ask for their contact information and clinic hours. That way, you can immediately contact a medical professional when something important comes up.

You Can Finally Have a Good Night’s Sleep

man asleep soundly

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

Now you know the differences between snoring vs. sleep apnea. So you are ready to address your problem effectively. Whether your doctor advises you to do basic lifestyle changes, therapies, or even surgery, don’t be afraid.

Soon, you will free yourself from the risks that snoring and sleep apnea pose to your health.

Have any other important tips for distinguishing between snoring vs. sleep apnea? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured Image: Image via Freepik