According to the Cleveland Clinic, 25 percent of adults are “habitual” snorers. With that level of prevalence, it’s only natural that many myths, half-truths, and misunderstandings about the condition can be a serious drain on someone’s health – but it can also be a sign of a much more threatening disorder known as sleep apnea.
There are a few types of sleep apnea, with the most common being called obstructive sleep apnea. With this condition, the muscles in your threat relax, blocking your airways and leading to reduced or absent breathing during sleep. Understanding snoring, sleep apnea, and the difference between the two is essential to knowing what might be keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep. Here are some of the most common myths about the conditions, and the reality behind them.
Myth: Snoring isn’t serious; if it’s not bothering my partner, I don’t need to worry about it
While snoring alone does not limit breathing to the extent of sleep apnea, it can still lead to a number of health concerns such as daytime drowsiness, irritability, and lack of focus. Multiple studies have shown that loud snoring also has a positive correlation with the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Snoring also inflames the muscles in your throat, leading to swelling and weakness that can, in turn, lead to sleep apnea.
Myth: If I snore, I have sleep apnea.
No, not every snorer has sleep apnea, but it can be a symptom of the condition. If you notice that your partner snores and then goes silent for an extended period of time before taking a large breath, gasp, or particularly loud snore, there is a very high likelihood that they could have sleep apnea.
If you know that you snore, be aware of other symptoms like morning headaches, waking up with a dry mouth, heavy lethargy, and all the previously noted symptoms from heavy snoring, but more severe. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, consult with your doctor and consider ordering a sleep study.
“Without a sleep study, there’s really no surefire way of knowing if you’re just snoring, or if you actually have apnea,” said Kathy Uzelac of Sleep Airway Solutions, a Valparaiso Sleep Dentistry. “These studies can be done in the comfort and privacy your home.”
Myth: Only older men need to worry about heavy snoring or sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea and snoring impact the whole spectrum of people, men and women alike. And, while being overweight can make snoring and apnea worse, you can have either condition while still being otherwise healthy.
“You can be incredibly fit, and still suffer from sleep apnea,” Uzelac said. “One of our patients is a very fit, healthy, and active doctor. There’s also a chunk of fit young women in their 30’s that have this.”
Myth: My sleep apnea will go away on its own, especially if I lose some weight.
There is no cure for sleep apnea, it’s a condition that progressively worsens throughout your life. While it is true that losing weight can help reduce snoring which helps reduce obstructions, it does not completely eliminate the problem.
“If you lose a significant amount of weight, you might be able to reduce your apnea by about 32 percent,” Uzelac said. “You can be incredibly fit and still suffer from sleep apnea.”
Myth: I can live with being a little drowsy, so I don’t need to address my apnea.
Although the visible symptoms of sleep apnea might not seem especially dangerous, it can severely harm the body over time. The disorder can have you wake up anywhere from five to 30 or more times during an hour. This prevents your body from completing the sleep cycles it needs to generate hormones and repair itself, and adds extra stress on top of that due to lowered blood-oxygen levels.
“My dad, who we’re treating for sleep apnea, had his blood-oxygen levels drop down to 65 percent,” Uzelac said. “If you held your breath until you fell over, you wouldn’t get below 90 percent. Just think about how long you’re going without breathing to drop down that low. It’s a scary condition.”
Sleep apnea increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, experiencing high blood pressure, heart attacks, liver problems, and much more.
Myth: Sleep apnea can’t be cured, so there’s nothing to be done.
While the obstructions may not stop, Sleep Airway Solutions provides a number of options to help manage the symptoms and give their patients the restful sleep they need to stay healthy. These options include oral appliances and CPAP machines. To learn more, visit www.sleepairwaysolutions.com.