Important Sleep Apnea Facts you need to know

  • Many people have Sleep Apnea and don't know it
  • Sleep Apnea Affects over 18 Million Americans
  • Sleep Apnea can seriously affect your health
  • Sleep Apnea is more than just snoring
  • Sleep Apnea can be treated

Facts and Myths

I don’t have sleep apnea because I don’t snore

MYTH. Obstructive sleep apnea is commonly associated with snoring. However many obstructive sleep apnea patients DO NOT SNORE. Snoring is only one sign of obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, if a long time snorer no longer snores, this may actually indicate that his or her obstructive sleep apnea has increased in severity in that there is now complete blockage of the airway. This blockage will not allow the person to make a snoring sound. One should consider all of the signs when screening for obstructive sleep apnea. If you exhibit some of these signs mentioned above, please contact your sleep professional.

I only snore a little bit, so I don’t have sleep apnea

MYTH. We used to think that light snoring is harmless, especially if a person does not have any signs or symptoms and/or obstructive sleep apnea has been ruled out with a sleep study. However, new research data suggests that the trauma from snoring on the soft tissues may cause the formation of “nervous lesions” in the soft palate. These nervous lesions impair the reflex capabilities of those tissues, increasing the likelihood of airway collapse. We are taking the stance that all snoring should be viewed as the lowest threshold of sleep-disordered breathing, the same way as hypertension is the beginning threshold of cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, the vibration from snoring can cause any present atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid artery to break off, increasing the chances of a cardiovascular event such as a stroke. There are some studies that demonstrate that cardiovascular events such as strokes commonly occur during midnight and 6 a.m. in severe obstructive sleep apnea patients.

I’m not overweight, so I don’t have sleep apnea

MYTH. One of the reasons why obstructive sleep apnea could be so under diagnosed is that it is commonly thought of as a disease of obesity. It is true that obstructive sleep apnea risk increases with weight gain because excess fat tissue can constrict the airway. However, it is very important that everyone understands that if many world-class athletes can suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, so can many men, women and children who are not obese. To think of it in another way, a skinny person born with a large tongue, large tonsils and adenoids can suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Skinny persons with a deviated septum or sinus problems can have a reduced airway which puts them at higher risk of having obstructive sleep apnea. Therefore, anyone of any body type can have obstructive sleep apnea as adipose tissue (fat) is only one of many factors which may cause one’s airway to be constricted and/or collapse. If a skinny individual has hypertension, it would not be uncommon to find out that obstructive sleep apnea is also involved. Therefore, if you suspect that you may have obstructive sleep apnea, please contact your sleep health professional.

If I can just lose some weight my sleep apnea will go away

MYTH. Obstructive sleep apnea patients may find it difficult to lose weight as increased cortisol released by the adrenal cortex during distressed sleep increases blood glucose levels, which in turn is converted to fat. Insulin intolerance can also occur. In addition, an overweight individual who suffers from obstructive sleep apnea will often times report the lack of energy to go out and properly exercise as a result of the over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. If one is 5 pounds overweight and has mild obstructive sleep apnea, it is more likely that his or her obstructive sleep apnea can be handled with losing weight alone than an individual who is 15 pounds or more overweight with moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea. And even for the slightly overweight individual, the cortisol factor may make it difficult to lose the weight with diet and exercise. The answer lies in the proper diagnosis so please contact your sleep health professional.

Alcohol, drugs, caffeine and tobacco increase sleep apnea symptoms

FACT. Absolutely! Many drugs including benzodiazepines, opioids and Viagra can cause obstructive sleep apnea symptoms to worsen. We do not recommend any alcohol within four hours before and any caffeine six hours before bedtime.

Children can’t get sleep apnea, they’re too young

MYTH. Many children suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. If a child exhibits some of the signs listed above, please contact your sleep health professional. Unlike adults, many obstructive sleep apnea children may exhibit signs of ADHD and could be incorrectly given medication. Obstructive sleep apnea in children can cause delayed physical and mental growth. Many parents have reported that their child’s behavior and grades have improved following proper treatment. It is also very important to note that the growth and development of the face of an obstructive sleep apnea child can be affected because mouth breathing does not allow for proper palate arch formation. These children tend to develop long and narrow faces. Following completion of growth and development, this becomes permanent unless corrected by surgery. If a child is still growing, treatment for obstructive sleep apnea along with proper orthodontic treatment may correct these developmental abnormalities. It has been documented that Olympian Michael Phelps suffered from obstructive sleep apnea as a child, had ADHD, and was a mouth breather. We bring this example up so parents can relate to the appearance of an obstructive sleep apnea child, as Phelps is one of the most recognizable individuals in the world.

Children cannot be treated with Oral Appliance Therapy

FACT. Oral appliances may affect the growth and development of a child and is not recommended.

Medical insurances may cover oral appliance therapy

FACT. Many medical insurances, including PPOs and Medicare, do cover a portion of oral appliance therapy under durable medical equipment. For more information, please contact us.

There are many other sleep disorders besides obstructive sleep apnea that could explain patient signs and symptoms

FACT. That is why Polysomnography performed in a sleep laboratory is considered the gold standard for diagnosing sleep disorders. Other sleep tests, such as home ambulatory tests and pulse oximetry, do not test for sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome (RLS), and central sleep apnea (CSA). However, obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder.