CPAPs for Snoring vs. Sleep Apnea
Snoring can be indicative of two different conditions: primary snoring and sleep apnea. While primary snoring can be frustrating, particularly to a partner, it does not pose serious health risks. By contrast, sleep apnea occurs when a person temporarily stops breathing while sleeping. Snoring can indicate sleep apnea, but it does not necessarily mean a person has it. Sleep apnea itself is not life-threatening, but it can increase the risk of many other medical emergencies like a heart attack or stroke.
Primary snoring can be caused by many things, including a simple cold or allergies. If it’s a regular occurrence, it may be a result of older age (causing throat muscles to relax), a deviated septum, sleeping position, or enlarged tonsils. If your snoring is interfering with your sleep (or your partner’s), you can talk to your doctor about potential solutions.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes a person to temporarily stop breathing while sleeping, typically because the airway is obstructed. It can lead to many health risks, beginning with interfering with restful sleep. Beyond the day-to-day grogginess, poor sleep can lead to weight gain, depression, anxiety, skin aging, and learning difficulties. (Interrupted or restless sleep could occur with primary snoring as well.)
While those issues are certainly significant, the most problematic aspect of sleep apnea, in the long run, is the fluctuation in oxygen levels. The sudden increase or decrease in oxygen flow can trigger a domino effect starting with inflammation which leads to plaque buildup in blood vessels. That plaque buildup can eventually cause a heart attack or stroke.
Because of the severity of these risks, it’s critical to talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have sleep apnea.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
There are several signs you might have sleep apnea:
- Snoring extremely loudly
- Pausing while breathing for more than 10 seconds
- Taking shallow breaths
- Gasping or choking
- Excessive tiredness during the day, even with sufficient sleep
Even if you are not aware of exhibiting some of these symptoms, be sure to check with your partner, if applicable. They are often the first to notice these issues.
If you do experience one or more of these symptoms, your doctor may recommend a sleep study. This may be conducted at home or may require spending the night in the sleep center, depending on your symptoms and the level of observation needed. Doctors may observe brain waves, heart rate, oxygen levels and eye movement to discern whether issues like sleep apnea are present and how severe it might be.
If you find you do not have sleep apnea but want to minimize your snoring, there are a few things you can try, including:
- Losing weight
- Sleeping on your side
- Mouthpieces which reposition the jaw or tongue to allow more air flow
- Cut back on alcohol
- Talk to your doctor about allergies or potential sinus issue
How CPAPs help snoring
For moderate to severe sleep apnea, most physicians recommend the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This device provides continuous airflow via a mask worn over the nose (and sometimes mouth) so that the airway stays open while sleeping. The mask connects to the device via a tube and must be worn throughout the night.
Though CPAPs can take some getting used to, they are generally very effective in treating sleep apnea, assuming a person has found the right mask and device for his or her needs and wears it regularly.
CPAPs are medical equipment and must be well cared for. Most CPAP manufacturers recommend cleaning the mask and tubing with warm, soapy water after every use. Another way to keep your CPAP in proper shape is with Sleep8. The easy-to-use device utilizes the power of ozone to maintain your CPAP accessories. Simply put your accessories in the bag, seal it, turn it on and forget it. It will be ready to use again at bedtime.
The Bottom Line
As with any potential medical condition, the first step to managing your snoring is to talk to your provider. CPAPs are used to treat sleep apnea, and snoring alone is not always an indicator that you have it. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to see if a sleep study is necessary for sleep apnea diagnosis or if the snoring is likely caused by another issue.