Ways to Tell If It’s Obstructive Sleep Apnea or Just Loud Snoring

Posted by Tyler Britton on Sep 26, 2021 2:55:00 PM

Is it OSA or just snoring?

Importance of Just Snoring vs Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Is your or your partner’s snoring the primer for family jokes? Does your loud snoring require come with an “ear plugs required” caveat for your partner? Is your snoring the rule, not the exception?

Chronic, loud snoring may be a bigger personal problem than just a nuisance for other people who have to listen to your nightly nasally noises. In other words, while their sleep might be disrupted, your snoring might be caused by a medical condition called sleep apnea, which can have significant health consequences. Or, maybe you are just a loud, chronic snorer.

Knowing the difference and telltale signs between loud snoring and sleep apnea is important, as identifying the potential problem underlying your chronic snoring is the first step to getting healthy again.

High Level Overview of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder and medical condition where you repeatedly stop breathing many times throughout the night due to a physical obstruction of your airway, most often due to your throat closing, but also potentially because of tongue or tonsils.

OSA happens when the throat muscles in the back of your throat relax, causing the airway to narrow and your tongue to cleave to the back of your mouth, instigating snoring and a closed airway. When this happens you stop breathing and eventually rouse awake to begin breathing again, but you likely won’t remember ever waking up during the middle of the night.

This process can happen many times per hour:

  • Mild OSA: 5-14 apneas per hour of sleep
  • Moderate OSA: 15-30 apneas per hour of sleep
  • Severe OSA: 30+ apneas per hour of sleep

The risks are still the same with mild, moderate, and severe OSA, the only difference may be the prevalence of the symptoms.

Different Causes of Snoring


Snoring can be caused by:

  • Being overweight
  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • OSA
  • Sleeping on your back

The point is this: snoring doesn’t always mean you have OSA. Fixing your snoring can be as simple as learning to sleep on your back, or it could mean getting a sleep study, diagnoses, and wearing a CPAP device.

Weighing in weather your chronic snoring is causes by sleep apnea is matter of identifying other symptoms of OSA in conjunction with the your chronic snoring.

Reasons Why Snoring is Caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Besides snoring, other telltale signs of signs of obstructive sleep apnea are:

  • Bed partner hears you repeatedly stop breathing throughout night
  • Wake up exhausted
  • Wake up with headaches
  • Mood disruptions such as constant irritability
  • Low stress management
  • Struggles with depression or anxiety

Risk factors go up for sleep apnea if you:

  • Are obese
  • Have diabetes

Bed Partners Critical in Helping Diagnose Snoring as Caused by OSA

Bed partners can be instrumental in helping you identify that your snoring may be caused by OSA. As many bed partners can attest to, they could sit and count the seconds while their untreated OSA partner doesn’t breath throughout the night.

This can be a bit trickier without a bed partner, because you will have to identify other OSA symptoms that you may or may not be struggling with. If you live in Alaska and are concerned that you have OSA, getting a diagnoses is straightforward:

  • Contact our sleep center or your healthcare practitioner
  • Get a referral to get a sleep study (usually covered by insurance)
  • Book appointment and conduct sleep study
  • Our sleep center sends the results to your healthcare practitioner, who will discuss treatment options

CPAP devices as a treatment for OSA stop the snoring, which means a better night for you and anyone sleeping in your vicinity.

If you are concerned that you or your partner have OSA, then please click the orange button below and take a free online sleep test. 

Take a Free Online Sleep Test

Topics: OSA, Sleep Apnea, Snoring

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