Sleep Apnea is a prevalent yet commonly undiagnosed dangerous sleep disorder that interferes with healthy breathing patterns during sleep. It is characterized by snoring, which may be so loud that it affects the sleep quality of bed partners. Having sleep apnea can put a strain on relationships, cause daytime fatigue, and sometimes lead to other secondary conditions such as depression. In severe cases, it can even be life threatening.
Though snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea, not all people who snore also have sleep apnea. As much as 50 percent of Americans snore at some time, whether occasionally or chronically. However, only 5-10 percent of American adults have sleep apnea. So what’s the difference? Harmless snoring does not interfere with breathing patterns. Sleep apnea on the other hand, causes breathing cessations and sometimes ‘gasping’ during sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need treatment for Sleep Apnea?
You may need to see a doctor if you or your partner has been awakened by your chronic snoring and/or gasping for air. Though this condition can be very dangerous, your doctor can help you discover ways of managing sleep apnea and protecting healthy breathing during sleep. Doctors usually cannot detect sleep apnea during a simple office visit, as it requires a dedicated sleep study.
How will my doctor screen for Sleep Apnea?
Your doctor’s first goal will be to determine whether your snoring is benign, or if it is a symptom of sleep apnea. This may be determined by speaking with you and your partner about your symptoms. If you do not have a partner who can confirm snoring or breathing interruptions, your doctor may request a sleep study.
What types of treatments are available for people with Sleep Apnea?
There are many ways of treating the symptoms of sleep apnea. These can include conservative approaches such as a new sleeping position, using an oral appliance, or even just losing weight as a way to effectively open the airway during sleep. However, if your symptoms persist or conservative treatments are ineffective, you may be prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device (CPAP) to open the airway. In severe cases, surgery may even be necessary. Keep in mind that a diagnosis of sleep apnea is not always permanent. The most effective way to determine if you have sleep apnea is by having a sleep study done either in a lab, or even in the comfort of your own home.