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What's the difference between snoring and sleep apnea?

Snoring and sleep apnea are very different issues with some overlapping symptoms. In this post, our Burnaby dentists explain what sleep apnea is and share some of the main differences between the two conditions.

Both snoring and sleep apnea disrupt natural sleep patterns and can leave sufferers battling with the effects of poor sleep quality. However, not all snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. 


Vibrating respiratory structures, caused when airflow is obstructed, produce the sound we know as snoring. Snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) but, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea and not everyone with sleep apnea snores. An elongated soft palate, a large tongue, or nasal obstructions are all common causes of airflow obstruction which could result in snoring. 

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by shallow breathing or abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. Many sleep apnea sufferers don't even realize that they have the condition until they are alerted to their own symptoms by their sleep partners. Sleep partners of people suffering from sleep apnea often lose sleep due to their loved one's sleep apnea symptoms. 

The 3 different types of sleep apnea are defined by the causes of the abnormal breathing.

3 Types of Sleep Apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea - Caused by a physical blockage to airflow,
  • Central Sleep Apnea - Caused by a lack of respiratory effort,
  • Mixed Sleep Apnea - Caused by a combination of the both an obstruction and lack of respiratory effort.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping when trying to sleep
  • Choking while trying to sleep
  • Dry mouth when wakingWaking frequently throughout the night
  • Morning headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Night sweats
During the day, people suffering from sleep apnea often feel fatigued and sleepy due to the poor quality of their sleep. This overwhelming feeling of fatigue can have some very negative impacts on their work performance, general alertness, and overall motivation. 

Sleep apnea is a serious condition. If you suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, contact your Burnaby dentist today for advice.

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