For a disorder as common as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it is alarmingly undiagnosed. Though 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffers from some form of it, almost 80% of cases don’t even know they have it. Even more disquieting is the general perception that sleep apnea is relatively harmless. Our mission at Sleep Treatment Solutions is to advocate for the awareness of sleep apnea, and the many consequences of leaving it undiagnosed and untreated. Today, we are busting six of the most dangerous myths about OSA. Be sure to share them with friends and family – knowledge is power!
Myth #1: Snoring is annoying, but it’s not dangerous.
Truth: Snoring is widely recognized as a risk factor for OSA. According to the Alaska Sleep Clinic, “loud, chronic snoring is one of the most frequently cited symptoms of sleep apnea.” Sawing logs can definitely be a red flag for OSA and if it goes untreated, the consequences can be severe. Untreated sleep apnea can take as much as twelve years off of life expectancy!
Myth #2: Sleep apnea only happens to overweight, middle-aged men.
Truth: Sleep apnea is not exclusive to men, middle-aged patients, OR people who are overweight. Nancy A. Collop at Sleep.org states that women make up about 45% of sleep study referrals, which are used largely to diagnose apnea symptoms. The Korean Journal of Pediatrics declares that approximately 3% of children have OSA. Children who have OSA often have their symptoms confused for ADHD and are incorrectly diagnosed and given medication, which doesn’t address the root of the problem for them. (Premier Sleep Solutions) When it comes to weight, undiagnosed sleep apnea can contribute to weight gain, which in turn exacerbates apnea in a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. Though obesity increases the risk of developing sleep apnea, individuals at a healthy weight can develop it too. In fact, former NFL player Brandon Stokley suffers from it himself.
Myth #3: Sleep apnea isn’t a big deal.
Truth: Untreated OSA can put you at risk for a number of illnesses, conditions, and diseases, including:
- heart disease
- heart attack
- high blood pressure
- and more!
It can even increase your risk for motor-vehicle accidents. Untreated sleep apnea is not just a big deal, it can be fatal.
Myth #4: You have to spend the night in a sleep lab to be diagnosed.
Truth: Many people avoid being tested for sleep apnea because they mistakenly think the only way is to go to a sleep lab. There is another way! Home sleep tests are much easier, much more comfortable, and can be very effective at diagnosing OSA. Gary K. Zammit, Ph.D. says the tests are accurate and “technological advances in recent years have made home sleep testing for sleep apnea commonplace.” (SleepDisorders.com)
Listen to radio personality and consumer advocate Tom Martino (“The Troubleshooter” 630 k.how) recently talking about his experience with our at-home sleep test! (Starting around 2min, 30sec.)
Myth #5: CPAP is the only option for treating sleep apnea.
Truth: Resistance to CPAP treatment is often the reason sleep apnea goes untreated. Many people simply cannot or will not tolerate the mask or the pressure of a CPAP machine. While their CPAP machine collects dust in the closet, their symptoms and complications continue to worsen. Modern technology offers many alternatives to CPAP therapy. One of the easiest is to wear a custom-made sleep appliance at night. Similar in feel to a retainer, this appliance gently pushes the lower jaw forward and allows the airway to open. No mask, no CPAP machine, no noise, no discomfort. As more people become aware of this option, the hope is that the cases of undiagnosed or untreated apnea will decline dramatically. (Learn more on our home page at Sleep Treatment Solutions.)
Myth #6: I don’t snore, so I don’t have sleep apnea.
Truth: Even though snoring is often connected with sleep apnea, it is only one possible symptom. Many people with OSA do not snore, but exhibit other symptoms. If any of the following statements hit home for you, you may want to consider getting tested as soon as possible:
- I often wake up with a headache, a sore throat, or a dry mouth.
- I experience daytime sleepiness.
- I have high blood pressure.
- I have gained weight, or am currently overweight.
- I experience irritability, mood swings, or depression.
- I have insomnia.
If you’ve noticed that your bed partner often gasps in their sleep, or stops breathing for several moments, that is another common symptom of sleep apnea.
The sooner we can help dispel these common sleep apnea myths, the sooner we can start to bring that undiagnosed rate down. Spread the word to family and friends, and know that there are easier ways to diagnose and treat apnea than most people realize. Many patients report improvement in all aspects of their lives after beginning treatment. They have more energy, take better care of themselves, feel happier and more relaxed, their relationships improve, and their productivity increases dramatically. Learn more at www.sleeptreatmentsolutions.com.