Finding the blurry line between snoring and sleep apnea can be somewhat of a challenge when looking for snoring solutions online. While CPAP machines do tend to stop snoring for those that rely on them for CPAP therapy, they shouldn’t be sought after as a snoring solution in and of themselves.
While snoring can be a marker for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), it isn’t a surefire indicator. There are several other more affordable anti-snoring solutions on the market that can alleviate symptoms when mild or intermittent. For habitual snorers, however, it is recommended that you get tested for sleep apnea. If you’re someone looking for answers as to why you’re still snoring with CPAP, consult your healthcare provider. You may need a pressure adjustment, a new type of mask, or a chinstrap to support your jaw during CPAP therapy.
In this article, we’ll look at what snoring is, discuss how it’s different from sleep apnea, and recommend some solutions you might be able to find relief from if you or your bed partner experience occasional snoring.
Why Do I Snore?
Understanding why you snore is the first step to finding a solution. We can all imagine what snoring sounds like, but what about what it looks like? While producing a somewhat comical sound, the truth is that snoring is caused by a partial blockage of the airway and can be indicative of a more serious underlying health condition. While it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern in and of itself, research from 2019 suggests that primary snoring is the initial stage of sleep-disordered breathing, which is highly prevalent.
When you fall asleep, the muscles of your mouth and throat relax, allowing any excess tissue—and even the tongue itself—to sag and narrow the airway. When the airway becomes partially obstructed in this way, the sagging tissue tends to vibrate as air passes through, creating the sound of snoring.
Those who frequently drink alcohol, smoke, people with chronic nasal obstructions such as a deviated septum, and those who are overweight or obese are all at an increased risk for snoring. Genetically, some people born with excess tissue or particular mouth anatomy that results in a narrowed airway are also more susceptible to snoring.
Snoring vs. Sleep Apnea
In many cases, snoring manifests an underlying condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Habitual snoring (for at least three nights per week) is highly prevalent and is associated with underlying OSA. The intensity of snoring has been found to be directly related to the severity of OSA and gets louder as the severity of obstruction increases.
Where snoring and OSA differ, however, is when the obstruction becomes severe enough that it fully blocks the airway. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is marked by an airway obstruction so severe that the sleeper experiences multiple episodes of being unable to breathe per hour and commonly wakes up gasping for air or choking.
People with sleep apnea experience chronic symptoms which typically include morning headaches, daytime sleepiness/drowsiness, and hypersomnia. Sleep quality is negatively impacted by the stops in breathing and commonly results in fragmented sleep or sleep deprivation. However, not all snorers have OSA. Snoring in the absence of underlying sleep apnea is termed simple snoring.
Typically, people with OSA are prescribed a CPAP machine which introduces a constant stream of pressurized air to hold the airway open, allowing for normal breathing to occur. Typically, this leads to more daytime energy, a reduced risk for comorbidities such as hypertension or Alzheimer’s disease, and, for most, snoring that is drastically reduced or even stopped entirely.
Will a CPAP Machine Stop Snoring?
While a CPAP machine will typically reduce or eliminate snoring, that is not its intended purpose. In fact, there are oral appliances for treating both snoring and sleep apnea, but only anti-snoring mouthguards can be purchased without a prescription. So, if your only goal is to stop snoring and not to treat sleep apnea, anti-snoring mouthguards are among the more cost-effective solutions and you should not be considering a CPAP machine purchase.
If, however, you’ve been diagnosed with OSA, anti-snoring products are not enough to treat your sleep apnea and you will require a CPAP machine, oral appliance for sleep apnea, or one of the other suitable alternatives for treating OSA.
If you’re a heavy snorer and you haven’t been tested for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a home sleep test is an effective and affordable way to find out if you have OSA from the comfort of your own home.
Alternatives to CPAP for Snoring
CPAP machines are the preferred treatment for OSA-induced snoring. However, CPAP therapy might not fit the bill for everyone due to discomfort or feelings of claustrophobia. Fortunately, there are a few alternatives if a CPAP machine does not seem to be the ideal solution for you. These include but are not limited to:
Similar to oral appliances for sleep apnea, anti-snoring mouthguards aim to position the jaw in a way that widens the airway and/or prevents the tongue from collapsing back into the throat. Tongue retaining devices do this by creating a safe space between the teeth for the tongue to rest so that it doesn’t fall back into the airway. Depending on the price and model, these range from general-fit solutions to moldable, personalized mouthpieces.
Snoring is influenced by several lifestyle factors, including:
- Being Overweight or Obese: Overweight and obese people typically have excess soft tissue in the neck, leading to an increased chance of snoring. Losing weight and getting regular exercise can reduce the risk of snoring as well as developing OSA.
- Alcohol Intake: Consuming alcohol within 2-3 hours of going to sleep was shown to affect sleep quality by disrupting certain stages of sleep. It also relaxes the muscles and makes you more prone to snoring.
- Smoking/Tobacco Intake: A 2012 study found that smokers experienced multiple negative impacts on their sleep and had more apneas and leg movements than non-smokers during sleep. Many studies have also found positive associations between smokers and an increased incidence of snoring, concluding that stopping smoking will likely benefit your sleep and reduce your snoring frequency and/or intensity.
- Medication: Sleeping aids, sedatives, and muscle relaxers tend to increase snoring because of their effect on the muscles in the throat during sleep.
- Sleeping Position: When discussing OSA, it’s often noted that many people experience POSA, or Positional Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This type of obstruction only happens in one sleeping position, typically on the back, and can be remedied by experimenting with other sleeping positions and supportive pillows.
Light oropharyngeal exercises such as tiger yelling, tongue slides, jaw tension releasing, and even singing loudly can tone the muscles in the mouth and throat and gradually reduce snoring.
Surgical interventions for snoring are not common but are typically effective. Surgery is usually a last-ditch effort, and it’s more likely that you have severe OSA if your doctor is considering surgery as a treatment option. Some common surgeries for OSA include:
- Soft Palate Procedures: Examples include Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and The Pillar Procedure. These types of surgery focus on removing tissue from or finding ways to support the soft palate in the rear of the roof of the mouth.
- Hypopharyngeal Procedures: Examples include Genioglossus Advancement and Midline Glossectomy. These procedures focus more on the throat and the muscles that control the tongue.
- Jaw Advancement: Also known as Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery, this is a procedure that moves the jaw forward (similar to how oral appliances work) to keep the tongue from blocking the airway.
- Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation: Hypoglossal nerve stimulation involves the implantation of a device on the hypoglossal nerve which controls the tongue. The implanted device gently stimulates the nerve during breathing to keep it out of the airway.
Some common frequently asked questions related to CPAP machines for snoring include:
Will a CPAP Machine Stop My Snoring?
Typically yes, but it’s complicated. CPAP machines are designed to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) which features snoring as a common symptom. CPAP machines stop snoring and treat sleep apnea by holding the airway open with a constant stream of pressurized air. CPAP machines should not be sought out solely as a snoring solution, and if you snore loudly or frequently, you should be tested for sleep apnea.
Is a CPAP Machine the Only Solution To Stop Snoring?
No, there are many methods, procedures, and products available to combat snoring including anti-snoring mouthguards and tongue retaining devices. Lifestyle modifications like losing weight, stopping drinking and/or smoking, and oropharyngeal exercises can also reduce snoring. Lastly, several surgeries are also available to alleviate snoring and OSA symptoms.
Are Snoring and Sleep Apnea the Same Thing?
No, snoring and sleep apnea are not the same thing. While sleep apnea can be marked by snoring, not all snoring is sleep apnea. A home sleep study can help you find out if your snoring is actually sleep apnea.
Do Nasal Strips Stop Snoring?
For those who snore infrequently and due to nasal obstructions or allergy symptoms, nasal strips that open the nasal passages may temporarily ease snoring symptoms but won’t help chronic, habitual snorers.
What Can I Do if I Still Snore After Using a CPAP?
If you’re still snoring with a CPAP machine, immediately consult your healthcare provider. It’s possible that your pressure needs an adjustment or that you require a different style of CPAP mask. CPAP chinstraps can also help stop snoring for those that prefer nasal masks.
On the question of whether or not a CPAP machine stops snoring, the answer is typically yes, but there are reasons one might still be snoring with CPAP, too. CPAP machines are not designed to stop snoring, but rather to treat sleep apnea by holding the airway open. While this typically reduces snoring, there are many better-suited devices on the market that are more cost-effective for reducing snoring such as mouthguards and tongue retaining devices. Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, kicking a drinking or smoking habit, and different sleeping positions can help alleviate snoring symptoms, too.
If you’re still snoring with CPAP, it’s possible that your mask type is ill-suited for your face structure, your pressure is too low, or you may need a chinstrap to stop pressure from escaping out of your mouth during therapy.
If you snore frequently and can’t find relief, our free sleep apnea quiz is a quick and easy way to find out your risk level for OSA.
Nate aims to make learning about sleep apnea and CPAP products as enjoyable as possible. When he’s not spending time working, you’ll find him volunteering at the local animal shelter or cultivating his vegetable garden.