Woman sleeping on bed with mouth open in blue top.

This is a common question we get and it’s worth expanding on, as so many people confuse the two. Millions of Americans suffer from snoring activity during sleep, says the American Sleep Apnea Association, and while some of these individuals are known as “simple snorers” or primary snorers, many have a serious sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Knowing the fundamental differences between sleep apnea and snoring will lead you to get the most effective treatment for either or both conditions. Proper treatment lies in proper diagnosis, so if you’re not sure whether you have sleep apnea or are just a bad snorer, read on.

Know the Difference

Snoring is what happens when the tissues in the throat relax enough that they partially block the airway and then vibrate, making a sound. Depending on unique factors such as the individual’s alcohol consumption and body weight, the sound of the vibration can be louder or softer.

Loud and frequent snoring is one of the main indicators of sleep apnea — a chronic condition punctuated by pauses in breathing or by taking shallow breaths while sleeping. People with sleep apnea may stop breathing for 10 seconds or more (sometimes up to a minute!) while sleeping.

Both conditions – snoring and sleep apnea — can be made worse or even caused by obesity, aging head and neck shape, and large tongue and tonsils.

Talk to a Doctor

If you

  • Are a loud, frequent snorer
  • Stop breathing, or gasp or choke during sleep
  • Experience excessive restlessness at night
  • Feel overly sleepy during the day

…you need to have a conversation with a doctor, preferably one who specializes in dentistry and sleep disorders. Taking this step will prevent the tendency to self-diagnose, and will be the spring board for proper treatment. A home sleep study may be necessary to determine the extent of the problem and how it should best be treated.


  • Dismiss snoring as “natural”: You may explain away your snoring as a natural part of aging. Yes, snoring can increase over time with age and weight gain, but don’t accept this as your lot in life. There is something you can do about it, so get treatment sooner rather than later – for your sake and the sake of your partner.
  • Underestimate the health risks: Snoring and sleep apnea are not just noisy nuisances to be swept under the rug; they can both have serious health risks. OSA sufferers tend to move out of deep sleep into lighter sleep when pausing in their breathing, which decreases sleep quality. OSA also triggers the release of stress hormones, changing how your body uses energy, and making you feel sluggish and unproductive during the day. There are many negative health effects of inadequate sleep, such as memory loss, weight gain, skin aging, and an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, diabetes, certain cancers and sudden death. Decrease these risks with proper treatment.
  • Forget that while you’re “sleeping,” others are not: You may not think your condition is disrupting your sleep (even though it is), but your partner is certainly being affected. He or she may be up all night listening to you snore, leading to a strained relationship that may result in anger, frustration and even the need to sleep in separate rooms. Studies have shown that lack of sleep or the need for nighttime separation can breed resentment and decrease intimacy.

Contact Sleep Apnea Center of Michigan

To learn more about how to distinguish between snoring and sleep apnea, and to get the treatment you need, contact us today at 586-203-2150.