As the old saying goes, “the best things in life are free.” Indeed, when it comes to a good night’s sleep, it is one of the best things in life and it’s free.
However, if you are suffering from snoring, or worse, sleep apnea, you may not be getting the benefits of this free restorative gift of nature.
Instead, you may be paying a heavy price in the form of daytime exhaustion and potential impacts to your heart and overall physical health. Not to mention, social impacts like upsetting your sleeping partner or others who live in your home who may be kept awake by loud snoring.
There are treatment options for both snoring and sleep apnea but it is important to understand that these two ailments are very different. The difference between the two goes farther than “night and day”—the difference could literally be “life and death” so here is a quick three-part primer on the contrasts of these two conditions:
- Breathing versus cessation of breath
- Sound versus silence
- Home treatments versus clinical intervention
Breathing versus cessation of breath
Snoring and sleep apnea seem the same to the common person so it is no wonder that the two can be confused. While both can reduce healthy sleep, the breathing patterns of a snore versus someone who has sleep apnea are different. A narrowing of the breathing passageway is what causes snoring. As the person breathes out during sleep, the air rushes through their throat and hits the narrowed tissues and the vibration of those narrowed tissues causes the snoring sound.
While this is potentially disruptive to the snorer’s sleep, and often very annoying to their sleep partner, or anyone else in the house depending on how loudly they snore, it is not necessarily a matter of life and death.
By contrast, someone suffering from sleep apnea is dealing with the constant collapse of soft tissues in their throat during sleep. Each time this happens it completely blocks their airway and this happens many times throughout the night. Doctors have found that it can happen as frequently as 500 times per night in severe cases. With this total obstruction of the airway, the sleep apnea sufferer is literally cut off from air supply as the collapsed tissues cause a cessation of breath. Much more than a disturbance or annoyance, this can be a great threat to their immediate and long-term health.
Sound versus silence
Those suffering from snoring are making the audible and loud sound of a snore every few seconds and depending on their sleeping position it goes on throughout the night. As long as they remain in the same position, the snoring continues as an audible sound. By contrast, those suffering with sleep apnea will also snore but the snoring pattern—even when they remain in the same sleeping position—will be intermittently interrupted by sounds of total silence. These are the seconds during which cessation of their breath has occurred.
So snoring tends to produce a consistent snoring sound while sleep apnea tends to produce a pattern of snoring followed by silence then sputtering or choking as the sufferer’s brain alerts their body to stir for air. When the person suffering with sleep apnea falls back to sleep, the snoring begins, the silence occurs, and the waking noises happen again.
Home treatment versus clinical intervention
Snoring is mostly considered a personal and social problem. It also has some health impacts since the sound of snoring can wake both the person suffering and others in the home. This can result in poor sleep, which leads to daytime drowsiness. There is a home treatment to deal with these impacts. Medical studies have shown that an oral appliance, like a snoring relief device, that adjusts the positioning of your jaw and tongue during sleep can easily and quickly remedy snoring. This is something that snorers can implement on their own.
Sleep apnea is another story. An oral mandibular device, which is the same as the “snoring relief device,” can also provide snoring relief and better nights to those suffering with sleep apnea. However, the condition is not something to manage on one’s own. For sleep apnea, doctors need to become involved in the treatment protocol. The process of correcting this health challenge can be everything from immediate treatment with the oral device to mid-range treatments like behavior modifications, such as weight loss. And finally, a major treatment like surgery.
Whether you believe you are dealing with snoring or sleep apnea, it is best to be sure by having a professional medical examination. Have a doctor complete a polysomnogram to confirm your condition. Diagnosing sleep apnea can be essential to protecting your health. This is a serious condition so get help right away if you think it is affecting you or your loved one.
Michelle Meglow is a company author of SnorBan, the anti-snoring mouthpiece that prevents the hoarse noise. Michelle has been passionately been writing for the exclusive company that makes these anti-snoring mouthpieces for 30 years.