Can You Have Sleep Apnea Without Snoring?

Snoring in Sleep Apnea

One of the primary indicators of sleep apnea is loud snoring. And while snoring is one of the side effects of sleep apnea, it’s not a very harmful one. It’s an annoying side effect, to say the least though. Those who suffer from sleep apnea will usually report that their partners are frustrated by the loud snoring and they are unable to catch a good sleep.

But can you have sleep apnea without snoring?

It might seem counter intuitive, but sleep apnea can also occur even without snoring. Everyone’s body will respond differently to sleep apnea, while it will also depend on what type of sleep apnea you have. The two types are obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

While obstructive sleep apnea is caused by obstruction in the airways, central sleep apnea deals with the nervous system and doesn’t always trigger snoring as a symptom.

Additionally, you might still be snoring, but it’s just that your partner might not have heard you snore as they are a hard sleeper. It is also possible your snoring is minimal and not loud, which makes it unnoticeable.

How Do You Know You Have Sleep Apnea If You’re Not Snoring?

Like I stated in the previous section, there are two types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. To start with,
central sleep apnea is a disorder where the brain doesn’t communicate with your breathing muscles properly while you’re sleeping.

Central sleep apnea leads to sleeping problems and a whole plethora of symptoms. You might find yourself sleeping less, and staying awake during the night. And you’ll also find yourself sleepy during the day.

On the other hand, obstructive sleep apnea happens when some of your breathing or parts of your breathing system get obstructed. Your body will have to work double to get air to your nose and your chest. Snoring is very common with obstructive sleep apnea, and it’s rare to have this type of sleep apnea without snoring.

The symptoms of both types of apnea are somewhat mixed together and overlapping, but in general, these are the most common ones:

  • You stop breathing when you sleep completely for very brief periods.
  • You also gasp for air and are unable to breathe properly.
  • Morning headaches are common, as is sleepiness throughout the day.
  • As a result, you are unable to pay attention during the day.
  • Irritability is also quite common.

Can Sleep Apnea Happen Without Snoring?

Yes, it’s quite common to have sleep apnea and not snore. That’s especially true for central sleep apnea, which is where snoring isn’t even one of the more common symptoms.

But even obstructive sleep apnea can happen without snoring, although this is quite unlikely. You might also be snoring during the night, but you have nobody to notice it, or your partner sleeps so well that they are unable to detect it. In any case, having sleep apnea without snoring is perfectly normal and something that can happen.

If that is the case, you will want to observe yourself if you find other symptoms of sleep apnea. If you’re unable to sleep well during the night, and you find yourself with a headache in the morning often, that’s a good indicator.

Another indicator is that you will be irritable during the day and somewhat unable to stay awake. This also results in a much poorer level of concentration.

While it’s true that most sufferers of sleep apnea will snore, not everyone will notice this symptom with their sleep apnea. In those instances, it’s better to observe other symptoms and consult a doctor about it.

Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

As a sleep disorder, sleep apnea is not dangerous on its own. At worst, it’s an irritable problem that lets you feel like a zombie throughout the day. However, for some patients, sleep apnea can be potentially dangerous.

For people who are already at the risk of some other health problems, sleep apnea can be a triggering factor that will start these health problems.

These include stroke, heart problems, high blood pressure, and even some other complications like metabolic syndrome. So the sufferers of sleep apnea will be at a higher risk of some of these health complications.

When is Snoring Just – Well, Snoring?

Snoring can occur independently to sleep apnea. So you’ll have to know when snoring is just snoring, and when it’s a symptom of sleep apnea. Snoring is often an isolated condition that’s linked to no particular conditions or diseases.

So it might be worth knowing when you can consider snoring a part of sleep apnea.

When we fall asleep, our muscles relax. And when they do, the soft tissues in our neck and throat collapse inward, where they start to clash and might obstruct the air flow.

And that’s how snoring can happen. But it’s not the nose itself making the snoring noises; instead, it’s the sound of the soft tissue colliding against the air that’s coming through your breathing pathways.

So you can see that snoring is sometimes just a minor problem or aggravation that might cause your partner to lose some sleep. But when it’s a part of sleep apnea, it’s very unpleasant. To investigate whether your snoring is just snoring, and when it’s part of sleep apnea, take a look at other possible symptoms.

If you find yourself out of breath during the night and wake yourself up to take an “emergency breath”, then that’s a good indicator of sleep apnea. You’ll be sleepless and struggle to fall asleep; and when you do, the quality of the sleep will be compromised.

The next morning, you’ll wake up with a headache and largely unprepared for the day ahead. That’s how sleep apnea feels.

When to Talk to Your Doctor?

When you snore, it’s probably not the reason to talk to your doctor. But if you notice other symptoms of sleep apnea in addition to snoring, then you should consider doing just that. Often, snoring is confused with obstructive sleep apnea, but if the symptoms get too strong for you, it’s time to ask your doctor about it.

Your primary care doctor is probably a good starting point to see what tests can be done or if you need to see a specialist. We have a post Which Doctors Treat Sleep Apnea that can help you better understand which doctors are relevant to sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea and snoring are connected and intertwined. One of the most common indicators of sleep apnea is snoring, but snoring can also occur independently. That’s why many people often confuse snoring with sleep apnea, which also has other symptoms to go with snoring.

As always, it is good to speak with your doctor so he or she can ask you some questions to see if you may be at risk for having sleep apnea.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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