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Can You Have Sleep Apnea Without Snoring?

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A woman covers her ears with her pillow, frustrated by her male partner snoring next to her

It’s probably not controversial to say we all like sleep. It’s good for your health, keeps you alert during the day, and helps you get the most out of life. That’s why something like sleep apnea, which can make your nightly rest far less restful, should be taken seriously.

One of the most recognizable signs of sleep apnea is snoring; however, it’s possible to have sleep apnea with little or no snoring. So, how do you know if you have it? You’ll have to watch for other signs, such as daytime sleepiness or morning headaches. And if you find out you do have sleep apnea, solutions are available.

The 3 Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a complex sleep disorder that can manifest in different forms. Generally, sleep apnea can be defined as a disorder that affects how you breathe at night. You’ll experience moments where your breathing stops, called apneas, that can last 10–30 seconds on average.

There are 3 main types of sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, affecting over 5 million Canadians.

It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep. As a result, the airway becomes partially or completely blocked, leading to pauses in breathing. OSA is often characterized by loud snoring, gasping, or choking sounds as the person struggles to breathe, but that’s not always guaranteed.

Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Obesity
  • Sex—men are more likely to have sleep apnea
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Anatomy, such as having a thick neck or narrow airway
  • Smoking
  • Nasal congestion

Certain medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or congestive heart failure may also contribute to OSA.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

CSA occurs when the brain fails to transmit proper signals to breathing muscles.

During this time, you won’t make any attempt to breathe. You likely won’t snore with CSA, but this means it can be more difficult to detect without a proper medical evaluation.

Central sleep apnea risk factors can include:

  • Age
  • Sex—men are more likely to have CSA
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Certain opioid medications, such as methadone
  • Having a prior stroke

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea (also known as complex sleep apnea) is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Initially, it may present as OSA but emerge as central sleep apnea after treatment. The underlying causes of this type of apnea are not yet fully understood, but it’s believed to result from a combination of factors from the other apnea types.

Regardless of your type of sleep apnea, proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial to managing the condition and improving your sleep quality.

An adult man sitting on the edge of his bed, frustrated from not sleeping well due to sleep apnea

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

You’re not generally awake enough to notice sleep apnea symptoms. Sometimes, you’ll have to rely on a partner to take notes and inform you. But if you’re not snoring, how will you know?

The effects of sleep deprivation may affect you during your waking hours. Here are some daytime symptoms you can look out for:

  • Long-lasting morning headaches
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth after waking up
  • Constantly waking up through the night
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Lower sex drive
  • Lack of focus throughout the day
  • Trouble with memory

Sleep apnea can affect more than your sleep; it can also lead to serious health problems if left untreated, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Accidents caused by fatigue, such as vehicle collisions or work injuries
  • Depression

These symptoms can vary from person to person. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

Sleep Apnea Treatments

The good news is that modern sleep apnea treatments are high-tech and suitable for many lifestyles. Some common approaches include:

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): A CPAP machine is the most common treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. It delivers a gentle and steady stream of air pressure to keep your airway open.
  • Oral appliances: A CPAP won’t fit everyone’s lifestyle, but an oral appliance such as The Vivos Method can be an excellent alternative for treating OSA. This custom-fit mouthguard-like device helps reposition your jaw and tongue to keep your airway open during sleep.
  • Laser Therapy: While it isn’t a treatment for sleep apnea, Solea Sleep is a laser treatment that can reduce snoring and help you sleep better. It works by tightening collagen in your mouth so it won’t relax and narrow your airways at night.

Lifestyle changes may also be enough to help reduce mild sleep apnea. Tweaks to lifestyle can enhance the 3D shape of the esophagus by tightening the tissue, allowing air to move more freely and with a higher volume. Even with treatment, it’s recommended you take some steps at home, such as:

  • Being active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Limiting alcohol and sedatives
  • Practicing good sleep routines
  • Sleeping on your side

Get Better Sleep

Improving your sleep quality not only enhances your overall health but also promotes better cognitive function, mood, and quality of life.

At Elevate Dental, we’re dedicated to helping people like you overcome sleep apnea and regain restful sleep. Our experienced team utilizes modern techniques such as the SleepImage home test to analyze your sleep quality and assess your symptoms accurately. Additionally, we’re one of the few practices in BC that offer the Vivos Method for sleep apnea.

Don’t let sleep apnea take a toll on your well-being. Take the first step towards a better night’s sleep by booking an appointment with our team today. Together, we can help you breathe easy again, enjoy the benefits of restful sleep, and smile out loud.

Written by Dr. Krystal Hakkaart

Dr. Krystal Hakkaart is a General Dentist practicing in the North Okanagan Valley. She graduated from the University of Sydney in 2021 with unique training in Clinical Teaching and Leadership. Krystal moved back to Vernon (where she was born and raised) to share her passion and skill with her hometown. Krystal makes every effort to stay on top of current trends and developments in dentistry. Her commitment to continuing education empowers her to better serve her patients’ distinctive wants and needs. She is passionate about utilizing innovative technology and digital integration to offer the highest level of service, and deliver exceptional quality care wrapped in a gentle touch that results in an overall comfortable experience.

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