There are many common myths about sleep disorders and sleep apnea. In some cases, even when struggling with a variety of symptoms and side-effects, people are still inclined to characterize these sleeping issues as ‘old wives tales’. However, this approach can be incredibly dangerous for your health and well-being. Untreated sleep apnea has been proven to cause and increase the risk for a variety of health complications, such as weight gain, high blood pressure and heart attacks. If you are suffering from sleep issues, it is important to learn about sleep apnea and create a clear distinction between myth and fact.
Myth: Sleep apnea is just snoring.
Fact: While loud snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, snoring alone does not indicate the sleep disorder. In fact, sleep apnea is much more serious than just snoring. People with sleep apnea stop breathing at night, sometimes hundreds of times throughout the night. These pauses in breathing typically last between 10 seconds up to a minute and are often followed by gasps or snorts to resume breathing. These interruptions of the sleep cycle can leave a person feeling fatigued the next day.
Myth: Only the obese get sleep apnea.
Fact: Being overweight or obese raises the risk of developing sleep apnea, due to the increased amount of fatty tissue in the throat. Weight is a factor in developing sleep apnea, as the fatty tissue in the back of the throat can collapse and block the airway as the muscles relax during sleep. However, even a well-conditioned athlete who has a large, muscular neck may have a similar problem. Even a thin person can have sleep apnea if he or she has a narrowed airway or structural abnormalities of the jaw, tonsils or adenoids, septum, tongue and soft palate.
Myth: Only adults get sleep apnea.
Fact: Although it’s more common to develop sleep apnea after age 40, anyone can be affected by it, including children. As many as one in ten children have sleep apnea, which may be cured by removing enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Doctors estimate that approximately 12 million Americans have sleep apnea, and the most at risk groups are overweight, male, African-American or Latino, and those who have a family history.
Myth: Sleep apnea doesn’t have long-term risks.
Fact: The frequent interruptions in sleep caused by sleep apnea take a toll on the mind and body. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause heart attacks or strokes. Those with untreated sleep apnea are also seven times more likely to cause a car accident due to drowsy driving.
Myth: Sleep apnea isn’t common in women.
Fact: While it is more common in men, women are also affected by it. Furthermore, they are much less likely to receive medical help for sleep apnea. A woman’s risk of sleep apnea increases if she has a large neck size or if she is overweight. Her risk also increases after menopause.
Myth: Sleep apnea doesn’t need treatment.
Fact: Untreated sleep apnea raises the risk of developing heart disease, as well as stroke, diabetes and depression. Getting treatment for sleep apnea can dramatically improve you overall health and quality of life.
To learn more about the myths of sleep apnea, please call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.