By Eric Stengle, Founder, Family Sleep Diagnostics
Did you know that in the United Sates, adult obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects 4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women? Here’s another worrying stat – two-thirds of people suffering from OSA are either obese or overweight.
In addition to weight, other factors such as family history, gender, health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and lifestyle habits can put you at higher risk for OSA. However, the percentage of people who seek professional help for OSA continues to be dismal.
One of the main reasons is that, unless OSA starts impacting health in a serious way, most people put off seeking professional medical help.
What most people don’t realize is that while OSA is a serious sleep disorder that can lead to a number of health complications – it is not untreatable.
There are several effective treatment options available for OSA such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and oral devices. Furthermore, by controlling certain factors than can lead to OSA, such as weight, the risk can be substantially lowered.
Symptoms of OSA
OSA presents via several symptoms such as excessive snoring and breathing disruptions. It is important to make a necessary distinction here –in most cases people suffering from OSA are heavy snorers. The opposite is not true – just because you snore, it does not mean you have sleep apnea.
A strong possibility that you suffer from OSA is if your snoring is interspersed with multiple episodes of sleep disruptions, cycles of silent breathing or waking up to gasping and choking sounds.
Here is a detailed list the most common symptoms of sleep apnea:
- Multiple sleep disruptions all through the sleeping hours.
- Episodes of loud snoring followed by periods of silent breathing and waking up with gasping or choking sounds.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
- Poor quality sleep.
- Waking up with morning headaches.
- Sleep disruptions characterized by frequent bathroom breaks at night.
- Difficulty focusing.
- Drop in productivity and energy levels.
- Mood swings – irritability and memory loss.
- Drop in sexual desire.
Of course, many of these symptoms can also be caused by other factors such as stress or a health condition. However, if you check off most of these symptoms, one should not rule out the possibility of sleep apnea.
Common Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
As mentioned above, there are several factors which can increase the risk of sleep apnea. These include the following;
Excessive Weight or Higher BMI
While being overweight or obese can substantially increase your risk for getting sleep apnea, it is not an absolute factor. Sleep apnea in overweight or obese people comes from the fact that the excess weight around the neck often makes breathing difficult, which in turn can lead to disrupted sleep.
Thicker Neck Circumference
In men, a neck circumference of 17 inches or more increases the risk of sleep apnea. Among women, a neck circumference of 16 inches and more increases the risk of sleep apnea.
Gender and Age
24%-31% of men suffer from OSA while 9%-21% of women suffer from OSA. Another risk factor can be age – OSA is more common among young adults and middle-aged people.
Alcohol slows down breathing – when you drink and sleep, your breathing not only slows down but it also becomes shallow. In addition, alcohol can relax the muscles in the throat which can lead to the upper airway collapsing.
The risk of getting sleep apnea is higher among smokers. Tobacco can cause the airway to become irritated or inflamed which again can lead to the airway passage narrowing.
If your airway is naturally narrow or small, then you cannot do much about your condition. However, making lifestyle changes such as limiting or avoiding alcohol and smoking, maintaining your weight, and making sure you manage any health complication such as heart disease or diabetes can effectively reduce your risk potential.
To Wrap Up
Sleep apnea under any condition should not be ignored. If left untreated it can lead to other high risk and life-threatening health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
If you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms or if you have any of the mentioned risk factors, speak to your health care provider on how you can address the health condition or symptoms and effectively reduce the potential risk of sleep apnea.
If you already suffer from sleep apnea, don’t make the mistake of ignoring the condition. Consult with a professional sleep coach at the earliest.
Family Sleep Diagnostics – Saving Lives and Marriages
Do you or anyone close to you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea? Or do you suffer from any other sleep disorder? If yes, we can help. You can reach us at Family Sleep Diagnostics or give us a call on (972) 714-0011.