Why snoring is a sign of sleep apnea and what to do about it?

Are you or someone close to you a loud snorer? Well, there’s a chance that sleep apnea (more specifically obstructive sleep apnea) might be the root of cause behind it. So, how does snoring signify sleep apnea? Sleep apnea leads to snoring by-

  • Continuous relaxation of throat muscles
  • Blockage and vibration in the airway tract

So, if you’re suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea and are looking for dependable solutions for this problem, we’re here to guide you through it. In this article, we will discuss everything there is to know about the correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and snoring along with the ways to tackle it.

What can I expect if I have sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a very serious kind of sleep-related breathing disorder which causes temporary stoppage of breathing during sleeping. The breathing may stop briefly, become shallow or have pauses.

Obstructive sleep apnea symptoms include-

  • Loud snoring
  • Drowsiness during the daytime
  • Unanticipated awakenings accompanied by gasping for breath
  • Sore throat following awakening
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Severe morning headache
  • Lack of concentration throughout the day
  • Irritable mood
  • Hypertension

So, if you’re experiencing all of these symptoms along with snoring, you might be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Although most of these sleep apnea symptoms start appearing a little later, snoring is usually the first and only symptom that becomes evident in the initial stage.

How is Snoring Related to OSA? 

Snoring is one of the most important aspects to consider in a sleep apnea patient. Sometimes there are patients who have OSA but there’s no exhibition of snoring. However, if a patient has chronic snoring, it is an important risk factor for OSA and needs to be addressed immediately.

Smoring occurs due to a narrow airway passage. The tissues behind your throat partially relax during sleeping leading to a blockage in the airway leading to snoring. It’s not necessary that snoring is always associated with OSA. Certain factors like obesity, nasal polyps, nasal congestion, sedative drugs and smoking can also be the cause of snoring. So, how can you tell that the snoring is due to OSA?

In OSA, respiration slows down or sometimes halts temporarily during various stages of sleep. It is associated with incomplete sleep and sudden awakenings. and breathing stops or slows for seconds at a time at various points during sleep.

However in normal snoring, respiration does not slow or halt down with pauses during sleep.

How long does sleep apnea last?

The time limit for sleep apnea varies from person to person, depending on the stage of sleep apnea as well as the weight of a person. Usually, the duration of time that a sleep apnea patient faces a temporary cessation in breathing ranges from 10 seconds to 2 minutes.

In the initial stages, the amount of time is usually 10 seconds whereas in the later stages it can last for 1-1.5 minutes or even more. It also depends on how heavy the person is and how much their neck circumference is. Usually, people who are obese and have a thicker neck circumference experience temporary stoppage of breathing for a long time. In mild cases, these stoppages can happen for 5-15 times per hour whereas in severe cases, it can happen to 40-70 times per hour. Severe cases like this can be life-threatening and demands immediate medical attention.

How does sleep apnea affect my body?

Obstructive sleep apnea is an extreme health condition and can affect your body in different ways if it goes undiagnosed. Here are some of the ways sleep apnea targets specific systems of your body without any treatment-

  • Cardiovascular system

Chronic sleep apnea can be a predisposing factor for atherosclerosis, which is basically the accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the arterial wall. Atherosclerosis is a major condition of the heart that can cause ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction and so on. Besides, chronic sleep apnea triggers the brain to cause a rise in heart rate and abnormal rhythm, leading to an increased possibility for heart attacks and advanced heart failure.

  • Respiratory system

Sleep apnea patients, preferably the ones suffering from central sleep apnea can experience symptoms similar to bronchial asthma at some point in their lives.

Central sleep apnea takes place when the brain cannot send enough signals to the respiratory muscles to contract and relax efficiently. In majority cases, the cause behind central sleep apnea is an upper air passage obstruction. It can also happen if a person has been sleeping at a place with a high altitude for a long time. Central sleep apnea patients tend to suffer from different respiratory system disorders, out of which asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the common ones.

  • Nervous system

Stroke is the most common nervous system disorder that takes place due to sleep apnea and many other sleep disorders.

Sleep apnea increases the risk of stroke in middle and elderly aged people along with people who are suffering from obesity. Since this sleep disorder affects the vasculature of the body, the neurological system is also affected at some point, hereby causing stroke.

  • Hepatobiliary system

Among the different systems of the body, the hepatobiliary system is also commonly affected in sleep apnea. Patients already suffering from fatty liver diseases can suffer from severe hepatic damage under the influence of sleep apnea.

  • Eye Complications

Sleep disorders, particularly sleep apnea can be a high risk factor for glaucoma, in which the optic nerve gets damaged. The optic nerve is the principal nerve for sending and receiving stimulation from the brain. During sleep apnea, the optic nerve receives reduced oxygen supply and ultimately becomes damaged to form glaucoma.

  • Pregnancy complications

Women suffering from sleep apnea during their pregnancy can develop complications like gestational diabetes mellitus and gestational hypertension. These complications can occur at any trimester of pregnancy and can be a cause of worry to the patients.

What tests will be done to diagnose sleep apnea?

Diagnosing sleep apnea will require you to make an appointment with a sleep specialist. You can simply ask your healthcare provider for recommending a reliable sleep disorder center. The center will help you find the right sleep specialist that can take care of your OSA.

In order to diagnose sleep apnea, your sleep medicine specialist will enquire about your symptoms in detail. You will also have to go through some tests within the sleep lab to confirm the type of sleep apnea you have as well as the severity of it. Here are some tests that you might have to go through-

  1. Nocturnal polysomnography-

    This is a type of sleep study which requires a polysomnogram to monitor a person’s breathing patterns during sleeping. It also observes other physical parameters like blood pressure, heart rate, brain waves, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels during the different sleep stages.

    The sleep study results will provide information regarding your changing sleep position, the time frame of snoring, any presence of gasping during awakenings, breathing patterns during different stages etc.

  2. Electroencephalogram

If you have sleep apnea, an EEG or electroencephalogram can be an important diagnostic tool to monitor your brain activity. This tool can also help your doctor to identify whether you have central sleep apnea. An EEG report is usually evaluated by a neurologist who can give his/her valuable opinion regarding the cause behind your sleep apnea.

You may also need some ear and eye tests for further evaluation by specialists of respective fields to exclude any optic nerve damage or hearing difficulties.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Sleep apnea has no definitive cure but there are many treatment options that can halt the progress of the disease and resolve its complications. Let’s have a look at some of these options designed specifically to treat sleep apnea-

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is one of the most effective therapies for sleep disordered breathing. If you suffer from moderate or severe sleep apnea, the CPAP therapy can be a practical option.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy supplies constant pressure with the help of a mask during sleeping. This air pressure exceeds the one in the surrounding air, thereby allowing easy entry and exit of air through the airway tract. As a result, the incidence of snoring gradually decreases and sleep apnea is prevented.

One thing that sleep apnea patients suffer with the PAP therapy is not getting the right fit for the mask. It takes time and practice to adapt to the strain on the mask straps. Once you get hold of it, the mask will start feeling right, secure and comfortable. If you still feel that the mask is not working for you, its better to try more than one type of C-PAP therapy masks to finally settle for the most comfortable one.

The C-PAP therapy is the gold standard treatment for severe OSA, so sleep medicine experts recommend sticking to this therapy unless you have major issues with it. You can contact your health care provider regarding any change in the pressure settings in the machine, even if you have gained excess weight or have gone through a weight loss. There are options in the machine to change the settings related to the release of pressurized air depending on the weight of the patient.

Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)

Bilevel positive airway pressure devices are also one of the most amazing types of sleep apnea treatments out there. These positive airway pressure devices deliver higher air pressure into the air passages during inhalation and lower air pressure during exhalation.

This is an excellent substitute for treating sleep apnea in patients who cannot tolerate CPAP machine. Patients suffering from respiratory diseases like COPD can benefit from this kind of positive airway pressure machine compared to a CPAP machine. However, if you’re not benefitting from this therapy and facing problems with it, you should immediately let your doctor know about this.

Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP)

EPAP therapy is one of the most popular sleep apnea treatments right now since it works without any electricity. The EPAP devices prevent sleep apnea by generating air pressure when you’re breathing out and keeping the airway open during sleeping prior to the next time you breathe in.

Automatic positive airway pressure (APAP)

Another alternative to a CPAP therapy is automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) machine. So, how does it differ from a CPAP one?

This machine can alter the amount of air pressure that can enter into the airway during sleeping depending on a patient’s requirements. Sleep studies have shown that this machine can be a substitute for patients who failed to make it work with the CPAP and BPAP machines.

Oral Appliances

Oral appliances are appliances designed especially for patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. An oral appliance controls tongue movement, arranges the parts of oral cavity in an ideal position and suppresses any airway tract blockage. It ultimately maintains a smooth and easy respiration during sleeping.

There are lots of effective oral appliances that can work for combating OSA. Here are some of them-

  1. Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)

A mandibular advancement device (MAD) moves the jaw forward and diminishes the chances of narrowing of the airway during sleeping.

This is one of the most recommended devices for sleep apnea by experts because of its effectiveness and ease of use. It fits easily and can be adjusted according to a person’s requirement. This device is one of the best treatment options for patients suffering from chronic snoring and daytime sleepiness.

  1. Tongue Retaining Devices (TRDs)

Tongue retainers are also quite effective in management of moderate to severe OSA. These appliances anchorage the tongue forward by creating a counteracting pressure. With the help of these devices, the tongue remains in firm position and there are no risks for an airway tract block.

  1. Palatal Lift Appliances

Palatal lift appliances are also quite effective as they target the daytime sleepiness and reduce the amount of time during which sleep apnea patients stop breathing temporarily. This appliance lifts the soft palate when a patient is sleeping and prevents nasopharyngeal reflux.

  1. Positional Therapy Devices

Positional therapy devices use vibration and tactile response system to improve the symptoms of sleep apnea. The vibration system in the device is switched on during the shifting of a patient’s position and thus creates a sense of alarm in the patient’s body. OSA patients tend to tolerate wearing this device more than CPAP machines. Hence, specialists have been recommending these oral appliances for treating sleep apnea more frequently nowadays.

Upper airway stimulation (UAS)

UAS is a process in which a small pulse generator is placed beneath the skin of the upper chest with two wires doing two separate jobs. One of them monitors your pattern of breathing while the other one transmits signals to keep the throat muscles open. The combination of these two wires helps in minimizing any constriction within the airway and helps in achieving a smooth respiration. The device is more commonly known as Inspire and has been considered by most specialists as an effective alternative to oral appliances and higher pressure air way machines.

How Can We Help?

Here, at Sleep Apnea Treatment in Houston, Tx, We use the Vivos method which is very effective for OSA patients .

Unlike other nonsurgical treatment options, this one offers a permanent solution with an average treatment time of 18 months. The method tackles the root cause of the sleep apnea and tries to fix it by targeting dentofacial abnormalities.

The multidisciplinary treatment plan is made by experienced dentists and medical professionals who specialize in sleep disorders.

By using this revolutionary non-invasive treatment plan, you can get a lasting solution to your problem and improve your sleep significantly.

Surgery for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In most cases, OSA might not recover with the help of machines and oral appliances. Surgical procedures might be effective in these cases. Here are some surgical treatment procedures that may help with OSA-

  • Hypoglossal nerve stimulation

Usually, the hypoglossal nerve is the principal nerve that controls the movement of the tongue. With the help of a surgical method, a stimulator is inserted within the hypoglossal nerve. This enables enhanced hypoglossal nerve stimulation and thus keeps the air passage free by securing the position of the tongue.

Nerve stimulation is the most common surgical process sought out by experts nowadays as the risk is minimum and the results are astonishing.

  • Tissue removal

This surgical form of sleep apnea treatment requires surgeons to remove tissue from the upper airway, i.e. the back of the throat and mouth. A part of soft palate, uvula and tonsils will be removed during this surgical process allowing any swelling or block to be removed from the airway.

Nowadays tissues from the upper air passage can also be removed using radiofrequency energy.

  • Tissue shrinkage

Apart from tissue removal, some soft tissue around your upper airway can also undergo shrinkage using a process called radiofrequency ablation. This process has less risks than tissue removal and works for patients who area suffering from moderate OSA.

  • Jaw surgery

Jaw surgery may also be helpful in patients with chronic OSA that is not getting any better with appliances. Usually, the jaw is repositioned with the help of a surgery to enable easy air flow through the air passage. The procedure is known as maxillomandibular advancement and it aims at creating a wide space behind the soft palate, ensuring a roomy airway.

  • Nasal Surgery

Nasal surgery basically refers to removal of polyps or correction of a deviated septum in the nose. People with polyps and a deviated nasal septum tend to suffer from snoring and other symptoms on a frequent basis. Correction of these conditions can help in alleviating the symptoms and ensure a smooth respiration.

  • Palate Implants

Another modern surgical method for tackling symptoms of OSA is getting palatal implants. Palate implants may be a great way to create an enlarged space in the airway and help in easy inhalation and exhalation during sleeping.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Only machines can not help you combat sleep apnea, you might need to make a few lifestyle modifications and try out some home remedies. Here are some of the lifestyle changes and home remedies that can help you tackle the dangers of sleep apnea-

  • Weight Loss

Sleep apnea is more prevalent among people with heavy weight. People who are overweight have thicker neck circumference that can result in a narrow airway making it difficult to inhale and exhale.

Obtaining a healthy weight can be a great help in this condition. It can improve most of the sleep apnea symptoms including snoring and minimize the complications of severe OSA.

  • Avoid sleeping pills and alcohol consumption

Alcohol and sleeping pills can exacerbate sleep apnea by limiting the air flow when you fall sleep. With regular pills and alcohol intake, the tone of your throat muscles get diminished making you stop breathing temporarily during sleep.

So, it is important to avoid alcohol intake and sleeping medications in order to improve the symptoms of sleep apnea.

  • Alteration of sleeping position

In order to fall asleep without facing snoring or any of the sleep apnea symptoms, it is important to change your positions frequently. The best way to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea is to sleep on your side or on your stomach. These positions will not only help your airways to remain open but will also allow generate adequate blood flow.

  • Quit smoking

Smoking is a risk factor for sleep apnea. Smoking regularly can make the airway tract narrower, disrupt the normal airway flow, cause damage to the the upper airway muscles and raise mucus congestion in the air passage. All of these factors can combine to exacerbate snoring and other sleep apnea symptoms.

So, by quitting smoking, you can halt the progress of your sleep apnea.

  • Nasal allergy treatment

People with nasal allergies tend to suffer from sleep apnea frequently. Nasal allergic conditions like allergic rhinitis, sinusitis etc. can cause swelling within the soft tissue of the air passages and constrict the airway tract. It is important to control these allergies by consulting an otorhinolaryngologist and cure these allergies.

By taking care of your nasal allergies, you can improve the symptoms of your sleep apnea.


Bringing it to the end, it can be said that snoring is an important indication for mild, moderate or severe sleep apnea. Unless tackled, sleep apnea can prove to be life-threatening at some point. Adopting healthy lifestyle modifications and considering effective treatment options for sleep apnea can not only improve the symptoms but also play role in living a healthy life.