Understanding the differences between sleep apnoea and snoring is the first step to effective treatment of both conditions.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is caused by the vibration of respiratory structures due to obstructed air movement while you’re asleep.

It can affect the:

  • nasal passages
  • soft palate – a soft layer of tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth
  • base of the tongue
  • tonsils – two small glands above the tongue where the mouth meets the throat
  • uvula – a small cone-shaped section of tissue that hangs from the soft palate between the tonsils


What is sleep apnoea?

Snoring3Sleep apnoea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. If left untreated, sleep apnoea can result in the sufferer’s breathing stopping repeatedly during their sleep – sometimes hundreds of times. As a result, this means that the brain and the rest of the body may not be getting enough oxygen.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is the most common type of apnoea and occurs where there is a physical blockage of airflow. Individuals with OSA are usually unaware that they have the condition, and the problem is often recognised by their partner, or someone who sleeps in the same room.

What causes OSA?

It’s normal for the muscles and soft tissues in the throat to relax and collapse to some degree while sleeping.

For most people this doesn’t cause breathing problems, but in people with OSA the airway has narrowed as the result of a number of factors, including:

  • being overweight or obese
  • having a large neck
  • taking medicines that have a sedative effect, such as sleeping tablets
  • having an unusual structure in the neck, such as an narrow airway, large tonsils, adenoids or tongue, or a small lower jaw
  • smoking or drinking alcohol, particularly before going to sleep

It’s not unusual for someone suffering from sleep apnoea to feel fatigued during the day, as well as it affecting your work performance, vigilance, motivation and other behavioural or cognitive effects.

How do snoring and OSA impact a good night’s sleep?

Snoring2Both sleep disorders reduce your quality of sleep and cause daytime fatigue. Inadequate sleep can result in weight gain, memory loss, skin aging, as well as a negative effect on your relationship.


If you are a frequent loud snorer, you should consult your GP and be tested for sleep apnoea before beginning any treatment.

What are the treatment options for snoring and OSA?

Treatment options for individuals suffering from snoring and OSA vary significantly, from conservative treatment to invasive surgical treatment.

Snoring treatments range from lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, a decrease in alcohol consumption, a change in sleep position, to oral devices and nasal strips.

Treatment of OSA usually involves drastic lifestyle changes, upper airway surgery and oral appliances. Another treatment option is to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device (CPAP), which is a machine that keeps the patient’s airway open during sleep by delivering a continuous flow of pressurized air into the throat.

For more information and advice about snoring and other sleep issues, visit the SlumberSlumber sleep clinic.

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