Many times, sleep apnea and snoring are thought to be interchangeable. However, while snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, snoring doesn’t automatically mean you have sleep apnea. But how can you tell the difference?

About 25% of people worldwide snore regularly. Out of that percentage, about three in ten people have sleep apnea. Keep reading to learn the differences between sleep apnea and snoring and how to know which you’re dealing with.


When you sleep, the tissue in your nose, throat, and mouth relax, leading to vibration when you breathe. Those vibrations cause snoring. When your airway narrows and the airflow increases, that also causes more vibrations and snoring.

Here are some other factors that can cause snoring:

  • Using alcohol or sedatives
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Colds, allergies, or sinus infections
  • Sleeping on your back
  • A deviated septum

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing while you sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea.

  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by a miscommunication between your brain and muscles. CSA is typically caused by a problem with the heart or brain but can also be caused by some medications.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. Those affected by OSA experience a partial or complete collapse of their airway while sleeping.

Indications of Sleep Apnea

You can’t tell my symptoms alone if you have sleep apnea. But if you recognize the signs of sleep apnea, it can help you know when to speak to your doctor.

Many of the most common symptoms of OSA happen while you’re sleeping, so you may not even know about it until your partner or roommate tells you about them. Some of these symptoms are

  • Loud snoring
  • Stopping breathing
  • Gasping or choking

There are also some symptoms that may appear while you’re awake. You should speak to your doctor if you notice any of these OSA symptoms.

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness —You could feel extremely sleepy when you should feel alert and awake. You may even find yourself falling asleep while driving, watching TV, or reading.
  • Headaches in the morning — Headaches with pain on both sides of the front of your head, and this pain may last for many hours.
  • Sleeping all night but not feeling rested — If you’ve slept for at least seven hours and still don’t feel refreshed, that could be related to OSA.
  • Inability to concentrate — Not being able to focus throughout the day can be caused by the reduced quality of sleep you get because of OSA.
  • High blood pressure — While other conditions can cause high blood pressure, if your blood pressure is running higher than normal and you are experiencing other OSA symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Long-Term Effects of Sleep Apnea and Snoring

If you occasionally snore, there are no long-term effects. Snoring that isn’t linked to sleep apnea won’t cause any symptoms throughout the day or affect your sleep. The only effect is that it will bother someone who shares a room or bed with you.

OSA, on the other hand, if left untreated, can cause memory and concentration problems. The increased sleepiness during the day increases the risk of accidents, and the reduced oxygen levels while you sleep can lead to serious health conditions in the future.

Getting a Diagnosis

The only way to determine if you are experiencing regular snoring or if it’s sleep apnea is through polysomnography (a sleep study). During a sleep study, a sleep technician will monitor your breathing, oxygen levels, brain activity, and heart rhythms. A sleep medicine physician will then review the data to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may be started on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. A CPAP machine provides you with constant airflow that keeps your airways open, reducing the collapse of soft tissue, and eliminating snoring.

If you don’t have sleep apnea but still snore, there are things you can do to help reduce the vibrations to get a more restful night’s sleep. You can try using nasal strips, oral appliances, and positional sleep aids to help. Also, avoiding alcohol before bed and making lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss and improved health can help reduce snoring.

Let DreamZz Sleep Center Help You (and Your Partner) Sleep Better

Even if you aren’t diagnosed with sleep apnea, your snoring can affect not only your quality of sleep but your partner’s as well. Get the sleep you and your partner deserve by visiting DreamZz Sleep Center.

While some major sleep facilities have a months-long waiting list, at DreamZz Sleep Center, we guarantee a consultation and a sleep study within one to two weeks of your initial phone call. Our knowledgeable, Sleep Medicine board-certified, fellowship-trained physician will review your information and symptoms. You’ll be on your path to better sleep in less than a month!

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.