Does sleep apnea lead to snoring?

This question was asked in Arizona State University, Arizona on 04/03/2012.
My husband snores at night. He is overweight and is tired during the day. I can't tell if he stops breathing but his snoring has gotten worse as time goes on. Is there a chance that this snoring could be from sleep apnea? He usually falls asleep with the TV on and has had sleep problems and insomnia in the past.

Doctors Answers (4)

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 4/4/2012 1

Snoring and sleep apnea are often comingled in patients who have sleep disordered breathing. Both can cause arousals that fragment sleep and lead to excessive daytime sleepiness. A referral to a sleep specialist can lead to sleep study to diagnose the severity of the problem and possible treatment with CPAP or an oral appliance.

Syed Nabi, M.D.
Answered on: 4/4/2012 1

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by cessation of airflow during sleep. When we fall asleep, just as we lose control of muscles of our arms and legs, we lose control of the muscles of the airway. This leads to the narrowing of the airway which causes snoring in some people and heavy breathing in others. As the airway collapses the air does not flow into the lungs. This leads to a drop in oxygen level and causes the heart to pump harder and faster. The brain has to wake up, telling the body, "Hey, wake up." This leads to destruction in the sleep. Most of the time patients develop fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness as they get deprived of quality sleep. A sleep study usually helps determine the nature of sleep apnea and helps a sleep doctor make the best plan for the patient. The most effective therapy for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP. Other treatment options include oral devices and surgery. If left untreated sleep apnea usually needs to multiple symptoms including fatigue, excessive sleepiness, mood disorder, headaches, trouble falling or staying asleep, etc. Untreated sleep apnea in the long run is known to cause diseases of the heart and brain such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, Alzheimer's disease, strokes, etc.

Robert C. Jones, M.D.
Answered on: 4/4/2012 1

Snoring can lead to sleep apnea, not the other way around. Snoring is the first sign of restriction of the upper airway. Streching of the tissues due to negative pressure from the snoring eventually closes the airway briefly leading to an apnea. Shallow breathing episodes called hypopneas occur sooner than apneas and can be much worse without being noted by a spouse.

Snoring is commonly associated with obstructive sleep apnea. When the tongue and soft palate partially obstruct the upper airway our breathing becomes labored and noisy. This noise is what we call snoring. Snoring is stressful to our cardiovascular system. It is akin to breathing through a straw. When the airway is completely obstructed, snoring stops until breathing resumes.