What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disturbance in your breathing during your sleep.
Sometimes your airway closes completely, which is called an apnea episode. Sometimes the airway closes partially, which is called an hypopnea episode. Each type of episode results in a reduction of the oxygen in your blood stream and both are clinically considered as elements of the sleep apnea syndrome.
These events occur repeatedly during the night, but the person suffering from sleep apnea typically does not realize it. Sometimes they might report that their “snoring wakes them up a few times during the night.”
Apnea robs your ability to gain the normal physical, cognitive, and emotional recovery benefits from sleep.
As you might imagine these abnormal breathing events have a severe impact on your health and quality of life. A independent report commissioned by the Institute of Medicine (2006) found:
Untreated sleep apnea will shorten your life 5 – 10 years
Untreated sleep apnea increases your risk of heart disease
Untreated sleep apnea increases your risk of stroke
What does sleep apnea look like?
Click the link below to see apnea occurring in its severe form.
Note, the video will show a patient that was recorded in a sleep center, the scientifically proven, equally accurate home test allows for an easier setup.
You can witness the patient’s struggle to breath, because his airway has become blocked. Eventually, the brain “wakes” the person enough to open their airway and they gasp for breath a few times. However, as they return to sleep the apnea always returns.
What causes apnea?
As with many conditions, excess weight creates a higher risk of apnea. But it is critical to realize that weight is not the only risk factor.
Men typically have a higher risk of developing sleep apnea and apnea tends to increase with age.
However, post-menopausal women have high rates of snoring and sleep apnea. One clinical study found that severe sleep apnea was present in 31% of obese women aged 55-70 years old (Franklin et al., 2012).
Apnea is not limited to obese individuals. In a study of over 28,000 people, 54% of normal weight people complaining of daytime sleepiness were found to have sleep apnea in a sleep test. Half of these thin individuals had moderate to severe sleep apnea (Yeligulashvili, 2009).
Loud, habitual snoring is a high risk factor for sleep apnea. One study of 1,973 patients in a sleep center reported that three of four people who snored habitually had significant sleep apnea and louder snoring was correlated with more severe sleep apnea (Maimon & , Hanly, 2010).
Ten Years Before Gaining a Diagnosis.
A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2017 reported that the typical sleep apnea patient suffers from the condition on average 10 years before it is identified in a medical setting. The authors found that patients typically had 17 medical office visits between the initial onset of symptoms and the patient being diagnosed.
Click below to read more about clinical studies.
What do I look for if I suspect I have sleep apnea?
There are many indications and risk factors for sleep apnea, including:
Interrupted breathing witnessed by a bed partner
Feeling tired or fatigued during the day
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Frequent urination at night
Feeling as if a night of sleep is not “refreshing”
Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30
Feeling irritable or depressed
Dry mouth during sleep
What can I do if I suspect I might have sleep apnea?
What if the sleep test confirms that I have sleep apnea?
Based on the results of your test and your medical history, your medical provider might want you to start a treatment for sleep apnea.
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) is the most common and most effective treatment for sleep apnea.
There have been tremendous advances in PAP therapy.
PAP therapy is quieter, the flow of air is humidified and more controlled to allow you to enjoy a better night of sleep.
Perhaps, the most notable advance is the auto-titrating PAP, which automatically adjusts the therapy level to keep your airway open each night. For example, the PAP treatment automatically resets to the proper level each night if you gain weight, lose weight, suffer from a cold or nasal allergy, or when you change sleeping position. As you might imagine this mode of PAP therapy is becoming the most commonly prescribed form of PAP therapy.
Sleep apnea and PAP therapy are gaining more public attention.
While sleep apnea is no laughing matter, it is encouraging that PAP has reached a greater public awareness…witnessed by such events as this past episode of the nationally televised sitcom “Mike and Molly.”
There are other treatments for sleep apnea.
PAP is generally accepted to be the most effective treatment for the widest population of patients who suffer from sleep apnea.
However, PAP is not the only treatment for sleep apnea. Other treatments include:
Oral appliances that can be fit by dentists who are trained in dental sleep.
Surgical options that can be performed by surgeons trained in these procedures.
Weight loss and health habit improvements (in cases where excess weight contributes to your sleep apnea).
Do I have Sleep Apnea?
Click here if you want to take a quick questionnaire.
NOTE: Your sleep apnea questionnaire is for your information only. We will not take any action based on this questionnaire.
If you suspect you might suffer from sleep apnea talk to a medical provider familiar with your history. If the medical provider believes that you meet the indications for a sleep test, your medical provider might order a home sleep test.
A Snap home sleep test is simple to perform and can be completed in your own bed.