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Is there sleep apnea without snoring?

Non-snoring sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that occurs during sleep and can have serious health consequences.

Although snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, there are other types of apnea that are not accompanied by this characteristic noise.

Important points Summary
What is sleep apnea without snoring? Sleep apnea without snoring refers to repeated pauses in breathing during sleep that are not accompanied by noisy snoring. It can be caused by various types of apnea, including central apnea where the brain does not transmit respiratory signals correctly.
What are the different types of sleep apnea? The three main types are: obstructive apnea (narrowing of the airway), central apnea (dysfunction of respiratory control) and mixed apnea (combination of the two).
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea without snoring? The main symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness, cognitive and memory impairment, as well as mood swings and irritability.
What causes sleep apnea without snoring? Causes include neurological disorders, heart disease, obesity, certain medications, aging and other medical conditions.
Diagnosis of sleep apnea without snoring The diagnosis includes a physical examination, medical history, polysomnography (sleep study) and sometimes additional examinations such as nasofibroscopy or cardiac tests.
What are the treatments for sleep apnea without snoring? Treatments include ventilation devices (CPAP, BiPAP), surgical interventions, lifestyle changes (weight loss, exercise) and innovative solutions such as the Back2Sleep intranasal orthosis.


What is sleep apnea without snoring?

Sleep apnea without snoring refers to repeated pauses in breathing during sleep that are not accompanied by loud snoring.

This disorder can be caused by different types of apnea, including central sleep apnea where the brain does not transmit respiratory signals correctly.

โš  Less noisy, it can be just as dangerous as classic obstructive apnea, causing breathing interruptions and oxygen deprivation.

Why don't some people snore despite apnea?

In some cases, airway obstruction is not complete, allowing limited airflow without sound vibrations.

In others, muscle relaxation during sleep mainly affects the respiratory muscles rather than those of the pharynx, thus preventing snoring.

Some medical conditions, such as neurological disorders , can cause central apnea without physical obstruction of the airway.

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What are the different types of sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type.

It occurs when the upper airways (throat) narrow or become blocked during sleep.

This narrowing prevents air from circulating normally, leading to repeated pauses in breathing.

Typical causes of obstructive sleep apnea

  • Obesity or excessive overweight,
  • anatomy of the upper airways (oversized tongue, tonsils, uvula),
  • excessive relaxation of throat muscles during sleep.

Central sleep apnea

In this case, the brain doesn't send the right signals to the body to breathe during sleep.

This is not a physical obstruction, but rather a dysfunction of respiratory control.

Possible causes of central sleep apnea

  • Certain medical conditions such as:

๐Ÿ’Š strokes,

๐Ÿ’Š Parkinsonโ€™s disease,

๐Ÿ’Š heart failure.

  • side effects of certain drugs,
  • high altitude.

Mixed sleep apnea

This is a combination of the two previous types.

Apnea begins with a signaling problem in the brain (central apnea), then the airways narrow (obstructive apnea).

Risk factors for mixed sleep apnea

  • Advanced age,
  • male sex,
  • obesity,
  • consumption of alcohol or sedatives.

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What are the symptoms of sleep apnea without snoring?

Excessive daytime sleepiness

One of the main symptoms of sleep apnea, with or without snoring, is excessive daytime sleepiness.

Repeated interruptions to breathing during sleep prevent restful sleep, leading to persistent fatigue during the day.

You may find it difficult to stay awake and focused:

๐Ÿ’Š at work,

๐Ÿ’Š while driving,

๐Ÿ’Š during everyday activities.

Daytime sleepiness can be a telltale sign of sleep apnea, even in the absence of noisy snoring.

Cognitive and memory disorders

A lack of restful sleep due to sleep apnea can also affect your cognitive abilities.

You may notice some difficulties:

๐Ÿ’Š concentration,

๐Ÿ’Š short-term memory problems,

๐Ÿ’Š attention disorders.

These cognitive deficits can have an impact on your performance at work or school, as well as on your daily life.

Mood swings and irritability

  • Sleep deprivation caused by apnea can lead to significant mood changes, such as irritability, anxiety or even depression.
  • You may feel more easily annoyed or have unexplained mood swings.
  • Constant exhaustion due to poor quality sleep can also contribute to these mood swings.

What are the causes of sleep apnea without snoring?

Neurological disorders

Several neurological disorders can cause central sleep apnea, a type of apnea without snoring or physical obstruction of the airways.

These disorders include:

  • Stroke, which can damage the brain's respiratory centers.
  • Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases that affect breathing control.
  • Lesions of the cervical spinal cord, which disrupt nerve signals to the respiratory muscles.
  • Certain congenital malformations of the brain or spinal cord.

Heart disease

  • Heart failure, where the weakened heart doesn't pump enough blood, can lead to central apnea.
  • Heart muscle diseases (cardiomyopathies) can also disrupt breathing regulation during sleep.
  • In the elderly, irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation) is a risk factor for central apnea.

Other risk factors

  1. Obesity, particularly excess fat around the neck, increases the risk of obstructive apnea without snoring.
  2. Certain medications can depress respiratory function and promote apnea, such as:

๐Ÿ’Š opioids,

๐Ÿ’Š benzodiazepines,

๐Ÿ’Š alcohol.

  1. Aging, with its loss of muscle tone, is a risk factor for all types of apneas.
  2. Conditions such as:

๐Ÿ’Š hypothyroidism,

๐Ÿ’Š acromegaly,

๐Ÿ’Š certain genetic syndromes also predispose to sleep apnea.

Diagnosis of sleep apnea without snoring

Physical examination and medical history

The doctor will begin with a thorough physical examination, paying particular attention to the upper respiratory tract (mouth, nose, throat).

He will look for signs of potential obstruction such as:

๐Ÿ’Š a large tongue,

๐Ÿ’Š enlarged tonsils,

๐Ÿ’Š a narrow jaw.

Your medical history will be examined for conditions that may contribute to sleep apnea (obesity, high blood pressure, heart or neurological disease).

Blood tests may be prescribed to rule out other possible causes, such as hypothyroidism.

Sleep tests (polysomnography)

Polysomnography or sleep examination, is the golden standard for diagnosing sleep apnea.

This nocturnal sleep laboratory recording monitors several parameters such as:

๐Ÿ’Š brain activity,

๐Ÿ’Š eye movements,

๐Ÿ’Š breathing,

๐Ÿ’Š oxygen saturation,

๐Ÿ’Š cardiac activity.

It can detect and quantify apnea/hypopnea episodes, even in the absence of snoring.

Polysomnography also differentiates between types of apnea (obstructive, central or mixed) to guide treatment.

Further tests

In some cases, additional examinations may be required, including:

  • Nasofibroscopy to visualize the upper airways and detect any anatomical obstructions.
  • An airway X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging to examine bone structure and soft tissue.
  • Cardiac tests (echocardiography, Holter) to assess the impact of apnea on the heart.
  • Consultation with other specialists (ENT, neurologist, pulmonologist) depending on the suspected cause.

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What are the treatments for sleep apnea without snoring?

Ventilation units

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is often the first-line treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

A nasal or face mask delivers a pressurized airflow that keeps the airways open during sleep.

For central apnea, non-invasive ventilation devices such as:

๐Ÿ’Š two-stage positive pressure ventilation (BiPAP),

๐Ÿ’Š servo-controlled assisted ventilation.

Surgical procedures

For obstructive apnea, surgery can be considered in cases of anatomical obstruction of the upper airway (enlarged tonsils, deviated nasal septum, etc.).

Surgical techniques include:

๐Ÿ’Š tonsillectomy,

๐Ÿ’Š correction of the nasal septum,

๐Ÿ’Š maxillo-mandibular advancement.

For central apnea, an intervention on the respiratory muscles (electrical stimulation of the phrenic nerve) can be proposed in certain cases.

Lifestyle changes

Several non-drug measures can be beneficial, including:

  • Weight loss for overweight and obese patients.
  • Avoid alcohol, sedatives and sleeping pills, which can aggravate apneas.
  • Regular exercise to improve physical condition.
  • Side positioning during sleep to avoid dorsal decubitus.
  • Treatment of any associated pathologies (gastro-oesophageal reflux, hypothyroidism, etc.).

Back2Sleep intranasal orthosis

Back2Sleep offers an innovative solution with its patented patented intranasal orthosis.

This medical device keeps the airways open during sleep, reducing apnea episodes and improving sleep quality.

Easy to use and space-saving, the Back2Sleep intranasal orthosis offers an effective alternative to conventional treatments for certain patients suffering from sleep apnea without snoring.

Non-snoring sleep apnea FAQ

Q. What are the health risks of sleep apnea without snoring?

Although less noisy, sleep apnea without snoring carries the same risks as classic obstructive sleep apnea.

This can lead to:

๐Ÿ’Š excessive daytime sleepiness,

๐Ÿ’Š concentration problems,

๐Ÿ’Š irritability,

๐Ÿ’Š serious complications such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke), diabetes and increased mortality.

Q. Can sleep apnea without snoring affect children?

Yes, sleep apnea, with or without snoring, can affect children.

In them, it is often linked to upper airway obstruction caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Q. What are the long-term effects of untreated non-snoring sleep apnea?

Chronic, untreated sleep apnea, whether accompanied by snoring or not, can have serious long-term health consequences.

There is an increased risk:

๐Ÿ’Š treatment-resistant hypertension,

๐Ÿ’Š cardiovascular accidents (heart attacks, strokes),

๐Ÿ’Š heart failure,

๐Ÿ’Š metabolic disorders (diabetes, metabolic syndrome),

๐Ÿ’Š cognitive disorders,

๐Ÿ’Š of road accidents linked to excessive drowsiness.

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