Difference between Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

By Medical Expert Team

Nov 28 , 2020 | 2 min read

Sleep is an integral part of our living. Good quality sleep ensures a healthy body and mind. However, not everyone experiences sound sleep. One third of the population suff­ers from snoring, causing discomfort not only to themselves but also to others. Snoring usually becomes more serious with age and can lead to adverse medical conditions.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is physically obstructed. Air needs to pass through the passages of nose, throat and back of the tongue to enter the windpipe and lungs to ensure sucient oxygen supply for the body. If any of the passages are narrow, adjoining soft tissues of the throat and tongue collapse, leading to vibration and subsequent sound of snoring.

What is Sleep Apnea?

The collapse of the soft tissues of the throat and tongue can be severe, resulting in obstruction of the flow of air into the lungs. This can lead to futile attempts of breathing, causing a drop in the oxygen levels in the body, especially at night. This period of no breathing at night is commonly called Apnea and the medical condition is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS).

In adults, the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea, which is associated with soft tissue of the mouth and throat, are excessive weight and obesity. During sleep, when throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause airway blockage.

Common Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea are:

• Loud snoring during sleep • Excessive day time sleepiness • Lack of freshness while waking up • Decreased concentration during the day • Attacks of choking in the night (may not be aware and not noticeable to others) • Reduced memory • Irritability • Depression and personality changes • Reduced libido • Hyperactive behavior with reduced attention span (amongst children) • Delayed growth in children • Breathing through the mouth and drooling

Serious Implications

Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) can lead to a potentially life threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention.

• Excessive day time sleepiness - can result in accidents • Heart attack • Strokes and paralysis • Irregular heart beat • High blood pressure

Prevention and Treatment Options for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Self Assessment

Epworth sleepiness scale can measure degree of sleepiness during the day.

Self Assessment Score

Score (0, 1,2, 3)

While driving a car (continuously without break)  
Sitting in a car / bus as passenger  
Sitting and reading  
Sitting after lunch  
Watching television  
While in a meeting  
While talking to someone  


0 – Never Doze

1 – Slight chance of dozing

2 – Moderate chance of dozing

3 – High chance of dozing

If you score 3 in this section, you may be at risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a potentially serious disorder that can lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or death if left untreated.


Snoring often seems like a problem without a solution. However, it can be cured by identifying the cause of this ailment. An ENT expert can help in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of snoring.

Sleep Apnea

For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend only lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If you have nasal allergies, your doctor will recommend treatment for your allergies.

Self Help

• Sleep on your side • Elevate the head of your bed • Limit alcohol and sleep medication • Exercise regularly • Lose weight

Written and Verified by:

Medical Expert Team