You’re up half the night, but you’re not sure why. Your partner says you snore. Is it snoring or is it sleep apnea?
While either issue can keep you up at night, the terms “snoring” and “sleep apnea” are often confused. Snoring happens when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, creating noise, and often irritating your partner. Sleep apnea is the partial or complete blockage of your airway lasting 10 seconds or longer. Sleep apnea disrupts both your breathing and your sleep pattern, making you tired and irritable. It can also cause other health problems ranging from memory loss to diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke.
A person who snores does not necessarily have sleep apnea, but a person with sleep apnea almost always snores. The louder the snoring, the more likely it is sleep apnea.
It’s possible that the snoring is caused by extra weight, a stuffy nose, muscles in the back of your throat that are too relaxed. Men are more likely to snore than women.
If your doctor believes your snoring is just snoring, there are some simple things you can do to improve your situation:
- Lose weight
- Raise the head of the bed
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Sleep on your side
- Avoid sleeping pills
- Trying a nose strip to keep your nasal passages open
Sleeping with a noise maker
If your partner snores, it is likely keeping you awake and causing you to lose up to 4 hours of sleep every night. Before you send your partner to the dog house, remember that snoring is a medical issue and not a personal failure. Wait until morning to discuss the problem and don’t try to solve the problem when you’re both struggling to get some sleep.
Lack of sleep can put a strain on your life, including your relationship. Get to the heart of the matter over a cup of coffee and let your partner know that you support him in getting an accurate diagnosis. Consider any changes in behavior or routine that might be affecting your partner’s health and help him identify issues in a non-confrontational way.
Keep in mind that you (or your partner) should see a doctor when the snoring is so loud it’s disrupting your partner’s sleep, or when the person who snores wakes up choking or gasping. This may signal obstructive sleep apnea that may have serious health consequences if left untreated.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be more than a nuisance
Sleep apnea can cause more problems than you might realize. High blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, depression and lack of concentration have all been linked to obstructive sleep apnea. It’s also quite jarring to wake up gasping for air or to hear your partner gasping for air.
If you, or your partner, are diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are several treatments available to help restore your health and your quality of life:
- A mandibular advancement device is worn as a dental retainer to adjust the position of the lower jaw.
- A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is worn to provide air pressure and keep your airway open when you inhale during sleep. A CPAP can be calibrated to become comfortable and can become an effective therapy for someone with severe sleep apnea.
- Surgery may reduce or eliminate sleep apnea in some people. . Correcting nasal obstruction decrease the amount of suction to breath in reducing collapse of the airway and OSA. Sometimes trimming of the soft palate and removal of the tonsils may be beneficial. There are several other surgical procedures that you can discuss with your sleep specialist or ENT physician.
- Positional therapy helps people who snore only when they’re on their backs by training them to sleep on their side. Those with mild sleep apnea might benefit from a low tech remedy such as pinning a sock into which a tennis ball has been placed to the back of your clothing. As they start to sleep on their backs, the ball alerts them to stay on the side, saving the partner from having wake up to poke them.
The Jacksonville Sleep Center can help you find a specialist who can evaluate you and provide answers to your questions – and help you press the snooze button of the bear that’s been disrupting your sleep.