A question we are often asked is “I snore, so do I have sleep apnea?”

Loud snoring is certainly one of the signs of sleep apnea.  But an important point is that while all people who have sleep apnea snore, not all people who snore have sleep apnea.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea, in addition to snoring, include pauses in breathing during sleep, gasping and choking, and can include frequent overnight urination, morning sore throat, and morning headaches.  Equally important is how you feel during the day.  If you snore at night and feel exhausted during the day, then you might have sleep apnea.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is very helpful in determining if you need to see your doctor or a sleep specialist.  Basically, you should read the following questions and answer 0, 1, 2, or 3.  0 means that there is NEVER a chance in dozing during this situation.  1 = a SLIGHT chance of dozing; 2=a MODERATE chance of dozing; and 3=a HIGH chance of dozing.

The questions are:

  • Do you doze off while sitting and reading?
  • While watching television?
  • Sitting in a public place, i.e., a theater or meeting?
  • As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break?
  • Lying down to rest in the afternoon?
  • Sitting and talking to someone?
  • Sitting quietly after lunch (without alcohol)?
  • In a car while stopped in traffic?

Total your scores for each question.  If your total score is:

0-7: you have a normal amount of sleepiness

8-9: you have an average amount of sleepiness

10-15:  you may be excessively sleepy depending on the situation and you may want to seek medical attention

16-up:  you are excessively sleepy and should seek medical attention

This simple test can be helpful in determining if you need to seek help.  If you score in the upper ranges, print a copy of the test and take it with you to your doctor.

Steve Gardner

The Sleep Wellness Institute