When is snoring a sign of something more serious?

The sleep lab at Davis County Hospital monitors patients with sleep apnea.

If you snore, wake up frequently throughout the night and are consistently tired during the day, your problem could be more than just restlessness, it could be sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder where airflow is restricted or stopped during sleep. It can be treated, but when do you know if snoring is just snoring, or if its a sign of sleep apnea?

"Really, if there's witnessed apnea, that the partner recognizes that the person is not breathing, that is one thing that should be checked out," said Dr. Robert Floyd, D.O. at Davis County Hospital. "But more than that, the symptoms that go along in the daytime, the inappropriate fatigue and that sort of thing is really what is being explored."

Davis County Hospital has two sleep labs, where doctors and staff can monitor a patient throughout the night and take the first steps towards diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea.

"To start the process, we would initiate a screening questionnaire that would probe some common symptoms and scenarios and that would start the process to determine if obtaining a sleep study would be the appropriate thing to do," said Dr. Floyd. "As you know, fatigue and tiredness can be caused by lots of other problems besides sleep apnea, so a comprehensive evaluation is necessary."

To treat the condition, lifestyle changes like weight loss and a healthier diet are recommended, or the patient will be given a C-PAP machine, which forces a continued flow of air to the airway and lungs.

"I stop breathing and I start choking and what this [machine] does is open up my airway and forces air down my lungs every night and keeps me breathing," said Andy Grove, sleep apnea patient.

The machines are expensive, running around $1,000, and a hassle, but they do work.

"I don't nod off during the day, which I used to do quite frequently, get tired when I'm driving, so obviously I sleep better, but it's an unpleasant, uncomfortable thing to have to wear," Grove said. "It's not the most pleasant, I've gotten used to it over the last couple of months, but still it's a first-class pain."

Most insurances do cover treatment costs of sleep apnea, but it varies by company whether its considered a pre-existing condition.

If left untreated, sleep apnea could cause or worsen conditions like high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, so Dr. Floyd recommends that any patient who thinks they may have sleep apnea come in and complete the initial questionnaire.