Snoring is most frequently associated with obstructive sleep apnea. The single most common sleep-related breathing disorder, OSA is characterized by the problem that leads to snoring: partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway while asleep. However, the kind of snoring that occurs in connection with OSA is unique: it’s intermittent, broken up by gaps of silence followed by loud gasps (when the person suffering from OSA goes without breathing for too long, he or she will start gasping for air).
Aside from loud snoring, one key symptom of sleep apnea is excessive sleepiness and fatigue during the day. Due to the sleep disruption that OSA causes, adults or even adolescents suffering from OSA may fall asleep for very brief periods if they stop to sit or rest. In extreme cases, they may even fall asleep briefly during conversations.
The side effects can be serious! OSA is associated with a range of issues, including:
- Reduced concentration and memory loss
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Reduced executive function
- Frequent mood swings and increased irritability
- Reduced libido
There are a number of factors that can increase the risk and severity of OSA, including:
- Weight gain. Increased fat deposits in the face and neck can increase pressure on the upper airway, restricting your breathing.
- Smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. This can constrict breathing, contributing to the risk of developing OSA.
- Use of alcohol or sedatives. Having a drink or using a tranquilizer, especially before bedtime, relax the muscles in your throat more than usual, which can increase the severity of OSA.
- Having a higher neck circumference may mean your airway is naturally constricted, which can make you more susceptible to developing OSA.
- Being a middle-aged male. OSA is much more common in older adults, and men are two to three times more likely than women to suffer from the condition.