Are you one of the many Americans who suffer from snoring? While snoring is a common condition affecting nearly 25% of the population, it’s important to know that it can also be a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition that can have serious health effects if left untreated.
It’s essential to understand the difference between snoring and sleep apnea.
Snoring is the sound caused by the movement of loose tissue and structures in your throat as air moves over them during sleep. While it can disturb your sleep, by itself, it rarely causes significant health problems. You may wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat, or experience some fatigue.
In contrast, sleep apnea is the temporary blockage of your airway during sleep, causing you to stop breathing for short periods. This is caused by the involuntary relaxing of muscles in your throat. Snoring is often the first symptom of sleep apnea, followed by choking or gasping as your body tries to clear the airway. Sleep apnea can lead to much more serious effects on your health and well-being, including:
- High blood pressure: Sleep apnea can cause hypertension or high blood pressure due to the repeated interruption of breathing throughout the night.
- Cardiovascular disease: Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, irregular heart rhythms, and stroke.
- Type 2 diabetes: Sleep apnea has been linked to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Depression: People with sleep apnea may be more likely to suffer from depression, possibly due to the lack of quality sleep.
- Daytime sleepiness: Sleep apnea can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to difficulties with concentration, memory, and accidents.
- Weight gain: Sleep apnea can make it difficult to lose weight and may even lead to weight gain due to disrupted metabolism.
- Headaches: People with sleep apnea may experience morning headaches due to the lack of quality sleep.
- Acid reflux: Sleep apnea can worsen acid reflux symptoms by causing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.
- Asthma: Sleep apnea can worsen asthma symptoms due to the lack of quality sleep and increased inflammation in the airways.
If you experience frequent snoring or suspect you may have sleep apnea, there are steps you can take to reduce symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet can help keep your throat muscles strong, while avoiding alcohol and smoking can keep your airway healthy.
However, a formal diagnosis through a polysomnogram or “sleep study” (done in a sleep lab or via an at-home sleep test) is the most accurate way to determine if you have sleep apnea. With the potential for severe health effects if left untreated, it’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you may have sleep apnea.
At the ENT and Allergy Centers of Texas, our team of experts can help diagnose and treat sleep apnea. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards better sleep and better health.