Do you average at least seven hours of sleep per night? If not, you’re not getting enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This lack of sleep could be caused by sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing when you’re asleep. An estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, but 80 percent of those are undiagnosed.
Unfortunately, many people brush off the symptoms of sleep apnea – which can include insomnia, snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness - and let it go untreated, often because of misconceptions about the disorder and its treatment. We’re here to debunk some myths you might believe about sleep apnea and its treatment and help you feel ready to schedule your sleep study.
- “Sleep apnea won’t affect my health that much.” Sleep apnea is actually a very serious condition that if left untreated can wreak havoc on major systems in your body and lead to chronic illnesses like diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Sleep apnea prevents you from entering the restorative stages of sleep, which can impact how your body functions.
- “Sleep apnea only happens to people who are overweight or obese.” While excessive weight is the most common cause of sleep apnea, there are many other causes of sleep apnea related to your anatomy. It can be caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids (mostly in children), a deviated septum, the structure of your respiratory system, or another airway restriction like a deformity in your trachea.
- “A bulky CPAP mask is the only way to treat sleep apnea. I could never wear one of those.” There are actually many different continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks on the market, so you can shop around for the one that will work best for you. They fall under three main types: a nasal mask, which only covers the nose from the bridge to the upper lip; a nasal pillow, which rests at the nostril and creates a seal; and full face masks, which cover the mouth, nose and much of the face. While CPAP masks are the gold standard in sleep apnea treatment, there are also alternatives to sleep masks, like oral/dental appliances, surgery to remove excess tissue, weight loss, and positional therapy to prevent back sleeping.
- “Home sleep studies work just as well as those done in a sleep lab.” While the thought of a night sleeping in an unfamiliar bed might be discouraging, having your sleep test done in a certified lab like the one at Shore’s Center for Sleep Medicine is the best way to get the most accurate reading. Home sleep studies do not monitor everything that a sleep lab test does, so your results of a home test may provide incorrect results or a false negative test. The rooms at the Shore Center for Sleep Medicine are designed with a home-like atmosphere to help make falling asleep easier.
- “I don’t snore, so I don’t have sleep apnea.” Snoring is just one symptom of sleep apnea, and not everyone has it. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea, and snoring is usually a symptom. However, another less common type is central sleep apnea, which is when the brain does not tell your muscles to breathe when you’re sleeping. Central sleep apnea is often associated with other medical conditions, like congestive heart failure, hypothyroidism, and kidney disease.
- “I can manage my sleep apnea without treatment.” If you use sleeping pills or a nightcap to help you fall and stay asleep, you could be making your sleep apnea even worse. These cause the muscles in your throat to actually become even more relaxed. They can also make it harder to wake up when you stop breathing. This can potentially extend the length of time you are not breathing, making your sleep apnea even more detrimental to your body.
If you think you might have sleep apnea but you haven’t yet taken the steps toward diagnosis and treatment of the disorder, now is a perfect time. We encourage you to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and discuss whether a sleep study is appropriate for you. We’re also pleased to offer a free information session on sleep disorders and treatment on Thursday, Jan. 18 at 11:00 a.m. at the Shore Center for Outpatient Rehabilitation, located at 710 Centre Street in Somers Point. To register, call 609-653-3512.
If you are ready to arrange an appointment for a prescribed sleep study at Shore, call (855) 633-6818. Be sure to tell the scheduler you would like your sleep study to be performed at Shore's Sleep Center, which is located at 710 Centre Street in Somers Point, NJ.