If you’re a snorer, you’ve probably been warned that this could be a sign that you have sleep apnea. Now you’re trying to decide how great that risk is.

Unfortunately, the Internet is not very helpful on this question. Reputable sources quote wildly different numbers. For example, an expert on NPR is quoted as saying that between 5 and 10% of snorers have sleep apnea. In the Chicago Tribune, another expert is quoted as saying that between 50 and 80% of snorers have sleep apnea. That’s a huge disparity from people who both ostensibly know what they’re talking about.

Let’s try to add some clarity by looking at the science on snoring and sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is common in snorers

Habitual Snorers Very Likely to Have Sleep Apnea

Unfortunately, there has not been as much research into this question as we would like. There is one large study that gives us part of the answer. This study looked at the correlation between snoring volume and sleep apnea severity among habitual snorers. They found that 87% of this population of habitual snorers had sleep apnea.

However, this is likely a significant overestimate of the total population. This study was using people who had been referred to a sleep center for the evaluation of their sleep apnea. It was likely that these patients had been pre-screened for their sleep apnea risk, probably because of the presence of other sleep apnea symptoms like daytime sleepiness. We should consider this an upper limit. Probably no more than 87% of habitual snorers have sleep apnea. There doesn’t seem to be similar data for occasional snorers, but we might use hypertension risk as a gauge for the relative likelihood of sleep apnea. Occasional snorers have about half the increased risk of high blood pressure that habitual snorers do, which we will use to estimate about half the risk of sleep apnea as habitual snorers. Since about two thirds of snorers are habitual snorers–an estimate that seems constant across several sources–then, it’s likely that, overall, 73% of snorers have sleep apnea.

Another study looked at 404 patients who had been referred for home testing with a sleep device. Again, these are snorers who have been preselected to receive sleep apnea testing, but they weren’t classified as “habitual snorers.” The study found that 308 (76%) had some degree of sleep apnea. This is close to our other estimate, and completely independent. Based on these two estimates, it seems reasonable to conclude that about three quarters of snorers have some degree of sleep apnea.

If You Snore, You Should Be Tested

So, if you’re a snorer, we suspect there’s a 75% chance you have some degree of sleep apnea. A three-quarters risk of having a life-threatening condition definitely deserves to be checked out. You should consider yourself at higher risk of sleep apnea if:

  • You have symptoms of sleep apnea like daytime sleepiness
  • You are a habitual snorer
  • You snore loudly
  • Your doctor recommends a sleep study

If any of these are true, then we strongly recommend you get a sleep study.

If you are looking for help getting a sleep study or finding the right treatment for your sleep apnea in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.