While many are familiar with the term, sleep apnea is commonly misunderstood — and largely undiagnosed. An estimated 54 million U.S. adults suffer from sleep apnea, although 80% may not know they have it and remain undiagnosed.
In other words, millions of people have no idea that they’re suffocating each night while they sleep.
With sleep apnea, you stop breathing because the muscles in your throat relax, collapse and restrict airflow for 10 seconds or longer. When this happens, your brain triggers you to “wake” just enough to take a breath, 5, 20 or over 100 times an hour, even though you don’t remember waking at all.
Sleep is one of our three pillars of health, along with diet and exercise. Persistent sleep interruptions can dramatically affect your quality of life. People with sleep apnea may experience low energy levels, dizziness, shortness of breath and chest discomfort. Short term, it can negatively impact your mood, productivity, personal relationships, and safety at work and behind the wheel. It’s also strongly linked to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Here are common myths and truths about sleep apnea.
Myth #1: Only people who snore have sleep apnea
While it is true that snoring is the #1 indicator of obstructive sleep apnea in men and women — you can have sleep apnea without snoring, too.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Constant tiredness
- Poor concentration
- Morning headaches
- Depressed mood
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Lack of energy
- Sexual dysfunction
- Frequent nighttime urination
Some people with sleep apnea may also hear from a partner that they make gasping or choking sounds while they sleep.
If you experience any of these symptoms, with or without snoring, you should talk with your doctor.
Myth #2: Sleep apnea only affects men, overweight people, or those who snore
Sleep apnea can impact anyone regardless of their weight, age or gender. In fact, 40% of newly diagnosed patients are women. While some people may be more prone to be affected by the disorder than others, sleep apnea does not discriminate.
And it’s worth repeating: You don’t have to snore to have sleep apnea.
Myth #3: Wearing a big, bulky, noisy mask is not worth treating my sleep apnea
Today’s primary treatment for sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is smaller, quieter and more comfortable than ever. Some people even report that their CPAP machine is so quiet, they didn’t think it was on. ResMed devices also let patients track their sleep on its myAir app (2 million users), helping nearly 9 in 10 people use it as directed.
The masks that you wear to administer CPAP therapy are smaller and much less obtrusive than those you’ve seen in the past, some no bigger than the size of your pinky finger. In the past year alone, ResMed has released four new masks to help users embrace CPAP treatment and to stay on it long term. These include its smallest mask ever, the AirFit N30, with a nasal cradle cushion that sits under the nose, and the “Freedom” category of tube-up masks that help users move and sleep in any position.
If you have concerns about your quality of sleep, discuss them with your doctor. You can also take a short quiz on ResMed.com/FreeSleepQuiz to determine if you may be at risk for sleep apnea.