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Can You Have Sleep Apnea Without Snoring?

Aug 08, 2023
· 6 mins read

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, around 7% or the world population. Loud snoring is the most common sign that a person could be suffering from sleep apnea, but its absence doesn’t mean that they don’t have this condition.


Continue reading to learn more about the other common symptoms of sleep apnea, and how to treat it!

Can You Have Sleep Apnea without Snoring?

Yes, it is possible to have sleep apnea without snoring. It is estimated that 6% of people with sleep apnea don’t snore.

Some individuals with this sleep disorder may not produce audible sounds during the pauses in breathing. Silent apneas, where breathing stops without the accompaniment of snoring, are possible.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring, but not everyone who snores has this sleep disorder. And, as we’ve mentioned, the absence of this symptom doesn’t automatically rule out sleep apnea.


So, here are other symptoms you should look out for:


-Daytime sleepiness, due to the frequent breathing pauses that interrupt sleep.


-Morning headaches or migraines, which are triggered by the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the person’s system.


-Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up, this is caused by mouth breathing right after the sleep apnea episodes.


-Gasping for air during sleep, to restart breathing efforts after a sleep apnea episode.


-Difficulty concentrating and irritability due to insufficient sleep.

Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Snoring


Snoring in sleep apnea is caused by the vibration of the soft tissues in the back of the throat when breathing air moves through the narrowed upper airway. However, snoring can have many causes besides sleep apnea, such as nasal congestion, alcohol use, sleep deprivation, and some sleeping positions.


Most people who snore on a regular basis don’t have sleep apnea. Snoring alone usually doesn’t have any negative effects on a person’s health, but it can affect your (and your partner’s) quality of sleep, and therefore your quality of life.

What Is Sleep Apnea?


Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes people to stop breathing for short periods of time while they are asleep. Some people produce a loud snore when they start breathing again after a sleep apnea episode.


This usually happens multiple times during the night, and each episode lasts several seconds. There are various risk factors for the development of sleep apnea, such as obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep medicine use, menopause, and family history of sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea can lead to major chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver disease, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and other heart diseases.


Signs of sleep apnea are usually noticed first by bed partners or family members that can hear the loud snores or pauses in the person’s breathing while they sleep.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea, these are:


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea, and it is caused by a blockage in the upper airway. This blockage occurs because the throat relaxes when you are asleep, causing soft tissues in the back of the throat and throat muscles to collapse.


Central sleep apnea (CSA): This is a rare type of sleep apnea caused by an inability of the brain to send proper signals to breathing muscles while the person is sleeping. This type of sleep apnea is most common in people with abnormal breathing patterns, people who use sedative medications, and people who have a history of strokes and other medical conditions that affect the central nervous system.


Mixed or complex sleep apnea: This is the rarer type of sleep apnea, and it results from a combination of OSA and CSA. People with complex sleep apnea usually start by experiencing OSA, but develop concurrent CSA after an adverse health event, such as a stroke or acute congestive heart failure.

Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnea


If you suspect you may be experiencing sleep apnea, you should seek a healthcare professional to conduct a thorough examination. After reviewing your medical history and examining you, your physician will refer you to a sleep specialist.


The sleep specialist will conduct a sleep study to give you a definitive sleep apnea diagnosis, recommend a sleep apnea treatment, and establish the severity of your condition.


Sleep apnea tests can be in-lab sleep studies that require you to spend the night in a hospital or sleep medicine facility, or a home sleep test. At Sleeplay, we offer a home sleep test to help you get that sleep apnea diagnosis in an easy and hassle-free manner. The equipment for the home sleep test is delivered straight to you, and you’ll get your results back in no time.


There are several treatment options for sleep apnea, but they are going to depend on your type of sleep apnea and whether your symptoms are mild, moderate or severe. These treatment options are:

CPAP or BiPAP Machines

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are the most common and most effective sleep apnea treatment currently available. CPAP machines work by delivering pressurized and humidified air directly to the upper airway through a mask, and this air pressure helps keep the throat open while the user is sleeping.


Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines are similar to CPAP machines, but they deliver a higher air pressure while the user is breathing in, and a lower air pressure while the user is breathing out. This makes it easier for some people to tolerate CPAP therapy, since they don’t have to breathe out against high air pressure.


Currently, there are auto-adjusting CPAP machines that have sensors to monitor your breathing patterns and adjust the air pressure that’s being delivered accordingly.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliances are custom-made mouthguard-like devices that help keep the tongue in place and move the jaw in a slightly forward position, helping prevent sleep apnea episodes.

Solea Sleep

Solea sleep is a non-invasive laser treatment that removes excess tissue in the back of the throat. It can be used to treat snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Sleep Habits and Lifestyle Changes

Good sleep habits and lifestyle changes can be implemented along with the prescribed treatment to reduce the severity of sleep apnea. The most commonly recommended lifestyle changes for sleep apnea are:


-Weight reduction

-Quitting smoking.

-Avoiding alcohol and sedatives.

-Sleeping on your side instead of your back.

-Sleeping with your head in an elevated position.

-Having a regular sleep schedule.

-Avoid consuming stimulant substances, such as coffee, within five hours before going to sleep.

-Avoid consuming stimulant substances, such as coffee, within five hours before going to sleep.


In some select cases, surgery may be necessary to properly treat sleep apnea. Surgery is only considered when other treatment options have failed or when the sleep apnea is caused by a fixed obstruction of the upper airway, such as enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum.


The surgical options for sleep apnea treatment are:


-Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty: This surgery involves removing excess soft tissue from the back of the throat, including the uvula and tonsils.


-Maxillomandibular advancement: In this procedure, the jaw is moved forward to increase the space at the back of the throat.


-Tracheostomy: This surgery is usually used in severe cases of central sleep apnea, and it consists in creating a hole in the neck and inserting a tube into the trachea to bypass the blocked airway.

Surgery isn’t always the most effective in treating sleep apnea, and it’s associated with certain risks and complications.


Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that can lead to several health conditions if left untreated. Remember that even though snoring is the most common symptom of this condition, some people can experience sleep apnea without snoring, so it’s important to be aware of other symptoms that indicate that you or a loved one could be suffering from sleep apnea.


Learn more about sleep apnea and the best CPAP machines on the market on our website!

Gabriela Alvarado

Medically reviewed: Gabriela Alvarado

Medical Doctor from the Central University of Venezuela. She holds certifications in Public Health Practice from institutions such as Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Imperial College London (UK).

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