Despite the limited understanding surrounding sleep apnea and how it affects a person, it is commonly referenced in everyday life. You may have seen appearances in television series or movies, such as characters attached to the masks of CPAP machines (short for continuous positive airway pressure therapy), without even being aware of its relevance to apnea! Sometimes, even those unfamiliar with apnea can draw links to the condition through its frequent association with snoring, even if they weren’t aware this symptom results from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
However, despite the growing representation of apnea, how common is sleep apnea in modern-day medicine?
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Would Be More Common If More People Were Officially Diagnosed…
Misdiagnosis of medical conditions and lack of accessibility to diagnostics go hand in hand. Without the awareness of sleep apnea needed to encourage more patients to explore sleep studies and assessments, fewer people will get a diagnosis each year. While it is estimated that over 26% of Americans between 30-70 years old live with sleep apnea, many remain undiagnosed through missed symptoms or obstacles in receiving appropriate care. Doctors now believe an estimated 80% of apnea cases are undiagnosed, without access to treatment or essential care to manage their condition. This is frequently a result of knowledge gaps between patients and healthcare professionals, meaning many patients must be made aware that they have the disease.
The Risks Of Living Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea
As sleep apnea is a condition that directly impacts a person’s ability to breathe, a range of medical problems can develop if the issue is left untreated. Depending on the severity, each ‘apnea episode’ will disturb a person’s normal essential body functions, lowering oxygen levels in the blood and preventing restorative stages of sleep required for health, memory, and healing. As this problem continues, the chances of developing secondary conditions may also increase, which can be particularly dangerous for those at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, liver problems, and mental health issues. Recent studies have suggested sleep apnea can reduce life expectancy by up to 15 years, making finding an appropriate treatment plan essential for improving overall health.
We All Snore At Some Point, But That Doesn’t Mean Everyone Has Sleep Apnea
One of the most common reasons for patients seeking an apnea diagnosis and sleep screening is usually down to a snoring complaint, either from themselves, a college dorm mate, or a frustrated partner. Although snoring frequently presents in up to 94% of apnea cases (according to studies presented in the National Library of Medicine) excessive daytime sleepiness is an often overlooked, yet more important consideration to look for in most suspected patients. Daytime fatigue – especially when excessive, can severely impact a person’s life, providing medical professionals with a warning sign of poor sleep quality, sleep-related disorders, or other severe health conditions. Snoring, however, may suggest a health concern but is not an exact indication of sleep quality unless it refers to those disturbed by someone else’s snoring!
Are You Just Snoring? Or Are You Sleepy Too?
Snoring occurs when air moves through narrow airways, triggering tissue vibration. Loud, noisy snoring can affect everyone at some point in their lives, usually due to allergies, strange sleeping positions, being overweight, and abnormal nasal structures. Unfortunately, this makes looking for an apnea diagnosis based on snoring alone impossible – unless you’re reviewing a patient against other common signs and symptoms.
If You’re Considering Whether You Have Sleep Apnea Or If Someone You Know May Be Suffering From The Condition, Here Are Some of The Questions To Consider:
- Are you waking up feeling exhausted, even after sleeping a whole night?
- How do you feel when you wake up?
- Do you have a dry mouth, sore throat, or headaches in the morning?
- Do you feel sleepy throughout the day?
- Is your weight within the health recommendations for your height and age?
- Do you struggle with moods, a lack of focus, and concentration?
- Has anyone mentioned that you snore or make gasping noises during the night?
You Are More Likely To Develop Sleep Apnea As An Adult
It is not expected to be born with sleep apnea, although cases do appear in children. Yale Medicine has suggested that 2-3% of youngsters are believed to have sleep apnea, with 10-20% of those being chronic snorers. Known medically as pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, many diagnoses are primarily linked to enlarged tonsils and adenoids, causing a partial block of airways (rather than a complete obstruction experienced by adults). Despite these figures, many wonder, how common is sleep apnea? The truth is, many patients will not develop apnea until later in life, as associated risks increase with age after a person reaches 30. Lifestyle factors, hereditary conditions, gender, and medical history can all influence the likelihood of an apnea diagnosis, with as many as 32% of people living with the condition by the age of 65.
Are You At Risk of Sleep Apnea?
Certain risk factors can influence how common is sleep apnea and make a diagnosis more likely with age, even for those who experienced good health throughout childhood and into their early adult life. There are tell-tale factors that can impact the chances of developing apnea, such as lifestyle choices, smoking, excessive weight, alcohol consumption, and poor management of other medical problems that can lead to OSA. However, when pondering how common is sleep apnea, one must consider that some individuals unfortunately can be more susceptible due to family history, previous surgeries, or, quite simply, the structure of their airways.
Common Sleep Apnea Risk Factors Checklist:
Anatomical factors such as small jaws and large tounges can make patients more prone to airway blockages and apnea episodes.
- Family history can indicate a genetic component of sleep apnea and increase the risk of developing the condition.
- Certain health conditions during childhood, such as obesity, may lead to sleep apnea in later life or development during childhood years.
- Obesity is a common risk factor associated with sleep apnea, leading to additional fat deposits in the upper respiratory tract and airway narrowing.
As mentioned previously, lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of sleep apnea, with alcohol influencing 25% of cases and smokers 1.2 times more likely to receive a diagnosis.
Gender can influence the likelihood of developing sleep apnea; however, this can change with age. Men are more likely to develop the condition if under the age of 50, whereas women are at higher risk after the age of 50.
Although these uncontrollable factors can be upsetting for patients to learn, especially those who are coming to terms with a new diagnosis, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can now be managed and treated in a variety of ways – contact our team at the Sleep Cycle Center to discuss our alternative and holistic treatment options.
Understanding How and When Sleep Apnea Starts
Sleep apnea affects many people across the world, with up to 5-10% of patients diagnosed globally. Risk factors, diagnosis rates, and awareness of the condition can vary between different countries, with apnea still relatively uncommon in some parts of the world. Managing the disorder and finding the appropriate treatment begins with understanding what OSA is and how it starts.
What Is An Apnea Episode?
An episode occurs when the muscles that support the soft tissues in the throat temporarily relax, primarily during the deeper stages of sleep. When these muscles relax, the airway becomes narrowed or, in some instances, completely closed – restricting breathing for the patient. Frequent apnea episodes may result in a range of uncomfortable daytime symptoms, leading to a patient seeking investigations and treatment through a formal diagnosis.
Get Started On Your Sleep Apnea Diagnosis With Sleep Cycle Centers
Our staff has been treating sleep apnea for several years and is dedicated to empowering patients to manage sleep conditions. Using convenient access to screening methods and home testing equipment, we are equipped to provide apnea diagnostics and manageable treatments to those suspected of obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep conditions.
Suppose you or your doctor are concerned about a suspected apnea diagnosis, or you are taking the first steps in the assessment process or started the initial referral process. In that case, our free Sleep Assessment Form is over 90% successful at identifying individuals with sleep apnea within 48 hours. Follow the link to get started, or Call our team to learn more!