Fact vs Fiction: The Top Sleep Apnea Myths
Are you just snoring or do you have sleep apnea? This is a question that more than 90 million Americans who snore need to ask themselves.
If you’re always exhausted or snoring is harming your marriage, you could be suffering from sleep apnea. You need to see your doctor immediately.
Snoring can be extremely annoying and disruptive.
But, obstructive sleep apnea (also known as OSA) is a serious health condition and sleeping disorder. For example, people with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
And yet, there remain numerous sleep apnea myths. These have led to misunderstandings about sleep apnea. In this article, we’ll separate the fact from the fiction and reveal the truth behind the top sleep apnea myths.
Myth 1 – Sleep Apnea is the Same as Snoring
Sleep apnea and snoring are not the same things!
Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. However, not all sufferers of OSA snore. Nor do all snorers suffer from OSA.
And yet, one of the biggest sleep apnea myths is that people who snore must have OSA.
More than 50% of U.S. adults snore. And yet, fewer than 1 in 15 U.S. adults suffer from sleep apnea, according to studies.
The symptoms of OSA include abnormal pauses in breathing and abnormally low breathing while asleep. This occurs due to the blocking of airflow or the lack of effort to respire.
Therefore, sleep apnea sufferers stop breathing altogether for up to 400 times per night of sleep. This usually lasts for up to 30 seconds, followed by a strong snort when breathing resumes again.
Snoring is merely when the respiratory structure vibrates during sleep. This is due to a variety of reasons, such as an especially large tongue or minor nasal obstructions.
Myth 2 – Sleep Apnea is No Biggie
Lack of sleep is a major problem among adults. In fact, 1 in 3 US adults is not sleeping enough, according to studies.
Contrary to one of the top sleep apnea myths, sleep deprivation can have significant consequences for our health.
Poor sleep causes a number of harmful health conditions. These include the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
The constant disruption to your sleep caused by OSA damages your health over time. These include:
- Fatigue and Tiredness: This can also result in depression, mood swings, poor concentration levels, and drowsiness during the daytime.
- Heart Problems: Increased risk of the development of high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is linked to insulin resistance
- Liver Failure: Poor liver function and liver disease.
It’s clear that sleep apnea is not a little problem. But in fact, it can be linked with a number of extremely serious health problems.
Myth 3 – Sleep Apnea Only Affects Older Adults
The majority of sufferers of OSA are over 40 years old. Therefore, many people have come to think that the condition can only affect older adults. And yet, this is another one of the major sleep apnea myths.
In fact, there are more than 18 million people in the U.S. who suffer from sleep apnea to different degrees. And many sufferers of sleep apnea are not older adults. But people of a variety of ages.
In fact, children also develop sleep apnea. According to studies, between 1% to 10% percent of children can be affected by sleep apnea. This can cause behavioral problems in young kids.
The symptoms in children are, however, usually moderate. But, they can still cause further medical problems if left untreated.
Myth 4 – Women Don’t Develop Sleep Apnea
For a long time, the condition was characterized as a “male disorder.” This has been the traditional view which has morphed into one of the most misleading sleep apnea myths.
The theory holds water too! Men are actually up to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
However, recent studies have discovered that actually women can be affected by OSA more than we thought.
The study brought together 400 women participants (age range between 20 and 70 years old). The researchers discovered the following:
- 50% tested positive for some degree of OSA
- 20% tested positive for moderate OSA
- 6% tested positive for severe OSA
Therefore, the results showed that women are nearly as vulnerable as men are to the development of OSA. This is particularly the case for older women after they undergo menopause.
And yet, women and men experience sleep differently and encounter different challenges in relation to sleep.
Myth 5 – Alcohol Helps With Sleep Apnea
Many people think that alcohol can help you sleep. That’s why many people enjoy a “nightcap” before bed.
Around 20% of Americans say that they use alcohol to sleep better. However, this is a common misconception. This inaccuracy makes it one of the most dangerous sleep apnea myths.
Drinking alcohol causes you to become drowsy. That’s not the same as improving sleep! In fact, alcohol negatively affects the quality of your sleep.
This is especially the case with people with sleep apnea. Drinking alcohol actually causes the muscles in your throat to relax, which blocks the airways for sufferers.
Myth 6 – Sleeping Pills Improve Sleep Apnea
Many people think that they can cure their sleep apnea with sleeping pills. Nearly 1 in 20 sufferers of sleep disorders take prescription medication to get to sleep.
This may help in the short-term for some people, however, sleeping pills are not helpful in improving sleep apnea. This is yet another addition to the list of sleep apnea myths.
Sleeping pills actually relax the tissue in your throat which blocks your airways. Therefore, in many cases, sleeping pills can make sleep apnea worse.
Thus, sleeping pills have the same effect as alcohol. It may help you fall asleep, but it won’t improve the quality of your sleep and improve the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Myth 7 – You Can’t Do Anything About Sleep Apnea
So, you’re just going to give up? People think that you just have to live with sleep apnea. Get used to it!
But, that’s one of the most harmful sleep apnea myths. There are numerous lifestyle choices which you can make to reduce your risk of sleep apnea.
There are many causes for the development of sleep apnea. However, being over-weight is one of the biggest and most common.
Why is this? Fat deposits around the airway impede breathing during sleep.
And, since nearly 40% of the US population is considered obese, this especially worrying.
If you want to reduce the effects of sleep apnea, you need to shed some pounds and live a healthier lifestyle. Speak with your doctor about a weight-loss program.
It’s not just weight-loss which can improve your resilience in the face of sleep apnea either.
People who smoke are 3 times more likely to develop sleep apnea compared with people who have never smoked before. Smoking causes inflammation in the upper airway of your throat which causes sleep apnea.
There are also other health reasons to lose weight and give up smoking.
Myth 8 – Positions While Asleep Don’t Matter
Are you tossing and turning in the night to get to sleep?
Many think that the sleeping position doesn’t influence whether your sleep apnea disrupts you in the night.
But, actually, your sleeping position can have a significant impact on whether your airways become blocked. For instance, if you sleep on your back, then the force of gravity will pull the tissues in your throat back to impede breathing.
Instead, you should sleep on your side. This improves your capacity to open up your throat when you’re asleep. You can also purchase a special pillow which can help you to keep your body on a side angle while asleep.
Get creative too! You can sew a tennis ball to your pajamas to keep you from rolling over.
Ignore the eighth example on our list our sleep apnea myths.
Myth 9 – Mouthpieces Don’t Help
Are you skeptical about whether mouthpieces actually work?
You may be surprised to hear that mouthpieces are actually recommended by dentists and orthodontists. In contrast to what sleep apnea myths say, mouthpieces can help.
Studies have shown that mouthpieces reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea by up to 45%.
It is important to note that mouthpieces cannot be the total solution for people suffering from severe sleep apnea. However, they’re particularly effective for mild sufferers of the condition.
The oral device is custom-made. It adjusts the position of the jaw and tongue to improve airflow during sleep. Check out this blog post to determine the best mouthpiece for you.
Myth 10 – There is No Medical Treatment
Too many people are not aware of the existence of medical treatment for sleep apnea. There are so many sleep apnea myths that the medical treatments get forgotten.
CPAP machines are the most common treatment for people suffering from sleep apnea, especially in severe cases. This stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.”
It blows air into your airway while you’re asleep. The flow of air can be adjusted to suit you.
So, do CPAP machines really work?
Yes, they’re highly effective. You need to ensure the mask and air pressure are adjusted correctly for the best results.
Studies have shown that the adjustment period for CPAP machines can last up to two weeks. However, after this phase, the benefits of CPAP machines to improve your sleep patterns are significant.
The Truth About Sleep Apnea Myths
Do you or someone you know suffer from sleep apnea? It’s not always easy separating the fact from the fiction when it comes to sleep apnea myths.
There are just so many sleep apnea myths! You need to know what works and what doesn’t, and also, the causes of sleep apnea and what can be done about it.
Now you have the information you need, you can ensure you make the changes to make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Do you want to know more about how to stop snoring and other sleep disorders? Get in touch with us to find out more.
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