Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is widespread, affecting an estimated 22 million Americans1. It’s estimated that of the millions of Americans having Sleep Apnea, as many as 80% are undiagnosed. Part of this trend includes many misconceptions about Sleep Apnea that may preclude a person from getting a diagnosis and treatment. Here are six eye-opening Sleep Apnea misconceptions, you don’t want to fall for:
Misconception #1: Snoring is the Same As Sleep Apnea
While snoring is a symptom of Sleep Apnea, snoring isn’t the only warning sign that you have Sleep Apnea. Snoring is caused by vibrations of the soft tissues of the throat and airway and is a sign that air is having some difficulty moving in and out of the lungs. But a person can have snoring and not have Sleep Apnea at the same time. It’s important to look for other warning signs you may have Sleep Apnea, such as daytime drowsiness, fatigue, falling asleep when tired or bored, among other things2.
If you have Sleep Apnea, you’ll also wake up frequently during the night, possibly gasping or choking. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to have snoring checked out by a physician or medical professional, as this could be a sign that you have Sleep Apnea.
Misconception #2: Sleep Apnea Only Affects Men
While men are more often diagnosed with Sleep Apnea than women, it doesn’t mean women can’t get Sleep Apnea also. In fact, most women are impacted by Sleep Apnea after menopause, with roughly 6% of them having the condition. In fact, 45% of sleep study referrals are now for female patients. Some women with Sleep Apnea may experience insomnia, depression, and fatigue3. The symptoms listed here seem to indicate that women experience the condition differently.
By not having the same symptoms as the majority of sufferers with the condition, a person may not realize they need to get their sleep checked out by a physician or medical professional. Because snoring is less common in women, and they may not experience the same symptoms as men, the condition is more likely to go undiagnosed.
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Misconception #3: All CPAP Machines and Masks Are Alike
For those who are newly diagnosed, Sleep Apnea treatment generally begins when they receive a machine and mask through their Durable Medical Equipment Provider (DME). What new patients don’t know is that many CPAP machine options are available and finding the right equipment can make a big difference in comfort and therapy success. The more comfortable the equipment is, the more effective therapy may be.
Misconception #4: Sleep Apnea Only Affects People Who Are Overweight
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is often viewed as synonymous with an above-average BMI. Although a majority of people diagnosed have been reported as overweight, there is still a significant number of those at an average weight. Sleep Apnea can affect anyone in any shape or size. Sometimes genetics can play a role. Our esophageal or throat construction is the root cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and in the same way you may look like your parent, you may also inherit a similar facial constitution, making you more prone to have OSA4.
Misconception #5: Sleep Apnea Can Go Away On Its Own
Adapting to therapy can be a difficult process, and therefore easy to abandon. Some don’t take the condition seriously and think they can live without therapy, but Sleep Apnea is a dangerous condition that does not get better on its own. Untreated Sleep Apnea can lead to many conditions or complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and an increased risk of cancer5, 6.
Misconception #6: Alcohol Makes You Sleep Better
Lots of people like to have a nightcap before bed to help them fall asleep, but studies have shown alcohol is detrimental to sleep. When consumed, alcohol acts as a depressant and can make you drowsy, but also can inhibit REM sleep, which is the most important, restorative stage of sleep. What’s worse, alcohol tends to relax the muscles, including the soft pallet which can mean more apneic events7.
Sleep is vital to a healthy life. If you or a loved one suspects they might have Sleep Apnea, take it seriously and talk to a doctor about a sleep study. If you have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and are looking for information about the condition or equipment, the CPAPTalk online community is a great resource to help you along the way to successful therapy.
1. “Sleep Apnea Information for Clinicians” – American Sleep Apnea Association (source)
2. “5 Common Sleep Apnea Myths” – Easy Breathe, Oct 2014, August 2015 (source)
3. “Not Just a Man’s Disease — Women Get Sleep Apnea Too!” – Huffington Post, September 2014, August 2015 (source)
4. “I’m Proof You Don’t Have to Be Obese or Male to Have Sleep Apnea” Yahoo Health, August 2015 (source)
5. “6 Things People With Sleep Apnea Wish You Knew” Everyday Health, July 2015, August 2015 (source)
6. “Sleep Apnea Tied to Increased Cancer Risk” Well Blog NY Times, May 2012, August 2015 (source)
7. “‘Nightcaps’ Don’t Help You Sleep Better After All” Health Day, January 2013, August 2015 (source)