You may think that your snoring, or your loved one’s snoring, is simply a nuisance. Without seeking diagnosis, you put yourself at risk for a number of serious health conditions associated with sleep apnea, including death. When snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, the risk for fatality is significant. And here’s a scary statistic: up to 80 or 90% of the 12 million Americans with obstructive sleep apnea have no idea that they are a victim of the condition.
Statistics on Sleep Apnea and Fatality
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in our country. A quarter of all deaths in the United States each year, which accounts for approximately 610 thousand lives lost, are related to cardiac issues. We know that of those who suffer fatal heart problems, 38 thousand also had sleep apnea (Source: NHLBI.NIH.GOV).
The fourth leading cause of death is unintentional; they are accidental deaths not associated with health issues. About 40 thousand Americans die in car accidents each year, and up to 20% of those deaths stem from someone driving while drowsy. Certainly sleep apnea could be a factor in many of these cases, though we don’t have research that shows us a hard number.
Sleep apnea is also the potential cause of death or debilitating illness when it results in a stroke, heart attack, work-related injury, or respiratory problems. The condition can decrease quality of life when it causes hypertension (high blood pressure), and sleep apnea patients are at a 45% greater risk for developing hypertension than those without the disorder.
Overall, studies show that the death rate for people with sleep apnea may be up to three times higher than for those without the disorder (Source: UWHealth). It is believed that the more apneic episodes (periods of not breathing) a person experiences during a night, the greater the risk of death. The numer of apneic events determines whether a person has severe, moderate, or mild sleep apnea. Scientists know that sleep apnea episodes cause blood oxygen level to decrease to lethal levels, which accounts for many of the related deaths.
What You Could Miss
Going to the doctor for diagnosis, and undergoing a sleep study away from your comfortable bed, may seem like a serious hassle. In fact, you may postpone or avoid diagnosis because of the hassle. Consider, though, what you will miss out on if you are one of the tens of thousands of Americans who lose their life to undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Your family will certainly miss you, and miss out on all that you brought to their lives. You’ll never see your children or grandchildren grow up, dance in a recital, win the big game, or graduate from high school and college. You’ll leave your spouse or partner alone, without their better half. Have you seen your kids walk down the aisle yet? Have you done all that you set out to do in your career? Whose lives are you influencing now – they will miss you greatly.
A simple overnight stay at a sleep lab could be the trigger that leads to you living a long, fruitful, rewarding life.
Even if you do not meet your surmise with undiagnosed sleep apnea, it will certainly impact your relationships, work, and quality of life. People who snore loudly, a common symptom of sleep apnea, disrupt the sleep of their mate, which leads to sleep deprivation for both partners. Sleep deprivation causes depression, anxiety, fatigue, impotence, and low energy. Anyone who struggles with these side effects will not live life to its fullest. They’ll drag through the days, wondering why they are so tired and irritable.
A simple overnight stay at a sleep lab could help you and your bedmate avoid the life-altering effects of sleep deprivation.
Diagnosis and Treatment Are Usually Simple
To effectively diagnose sleep apnea of all types, a sleep study is required. Only a sleep study will provide the data necessary to determine whether your issue is indeed sleep apnea, or if it has another cause. You’ll spend the night in a lab, where medical professionals will monitor many aspects of your body, while you sleep. You’ll be attached to a polysonogram by wires and electrodes.
The polysomnogram will measure and record your eye and body movements, blood pressure, heart rate, O2 levels, and brain activity. You may also wear elastic bands around your chest to assess your breathing, an EKG to study your heart’s response, and a tiny microphone on your throat that will record snoring. You may wonder how you’ll ever fall asleep with these devices attached to your body – but rest assured, you will sleep. Rarely does a sleep test need to be repeated. Even though you may not feel rested afterward, enough data will be recorded to determine whether you suffer with sleep apnea. The results of your sleep study should be available in a week or two.
Once the results are in, if you are an obstructive sleep apnea sufferer, you’ll probably be offered two options for treatment. The CPAP is the standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. This device features an air compression unit, tube, and facemask. It essentially forces air into your nose while you sleep, so soft tissues in your throat cannot block airflow. CPAPs require maintenance, they’re bulky and noisy, and many patients cannot tolerate wearing the mask and sleeping on their back all night.
The second treatment option is an oral appliance, known as a sleep guard. This small, convenient, and comfortable appliance fits into your mouth while you sleep. It holds the lower jaw slightly forward, which keeps soft tissues in the throat from collapsing to block airflow. The sleep guard is easy to clean, convenient to store and transport, and it’s silent. You can sleep in any position while wearing a sleep guard, and no special maintenance or replacement parts are necessary. Insurance often covers part of the cost of a sleep guard after a person tries a CPAP.
A Forever Cure
A CPAP or sleep guard are not a cure for sleep apnea; these are tools to treat the condition. You may need to continue treatment indefinitely. However, if your sleep apnea is caused by being overweight, losing weight may resolve the condition. Treating high blood pressure or diabetes may eliminate your sleep apnea. In some cases, finding the right medication for nasal congestion may alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. The important key is that you seek diagnosis and get treatment now, then address contributing factors and try to resolve the issue.
Call Main Line Sleep Solutions Now
To talk with a sleep apnea expert, call Main Line Snoring Solutions today at 610-527-6704. Dr. Stephen Gershberg has successfully treated sleep apnea patients for many years, and he can help you find appropriate, comfortable, and effective treatment for your sleep disorder.