Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which someone starts and stops breathing repeatedly while they sleep. Sleep apnea can cause complications such as daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes.
Why get screened?
Because sleep apnea can cause severe health complications, and it can be treated, it is important to know if you are at risk. There are simple steps you can take to help determine if you have sleep apnea and get help by learning about the risk factors, short and long-term effects on health, and further tests/procedures that may be needed to diagnose sleep apnea.
Who should get screened?
People that snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, may have sleep apnea. In addition, there are certain risk factors that put you at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea such as:
- Overweight or obese
- Having a large neck circumference
- Being male
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Being older
- Suffering from nasal congestion
It is important to understand your risk factors for sleep apnea and how it can affect your health both now and long term.
Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can occur in the absence of snoring as well and not all people who snore have sleep apnea. However, nearly all people with sleep apnea will suffer from daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms of sleep apnea can include a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches, memory or learning difficulties, trouble concentrating, irritability, feeling depressed or having mood swings or personality changes, and urination at night.
Sleep apnea is more common in males than in females (4% of middle-aged men compared to 2% of middle-aged females), and it triples the stroke risk in males. Females are more likely to develop sleep apnea after menopause, and more than half of the people who have sleep apnea are overweight.
- Additional Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Using excessive amounts of alcohol or sleeping pills
- African Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders are the most likely to develop the condition, and Individuals who smoke or have high blood pressure are also at risk of having sleep apnea.
While it’s true that loud snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, it’s loud snoring with periods of silence that together indicate an absence of breathing. Many people with sleep apnea also experience episodes of snorting or gasping during sleep that follow the periods of silence. The snorting or gasping is a result of the brain telling the individual to breathe.
There are many risk factors you cannot change; it is important to make lifestyle changes to the things you can control.
Maintain a healthy weight
- Lose weight, if you need to. It is challenging to lose weight safely. Start with small lifestyle changes. Learn how to read a label.
- Eat a healthy diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, low-fat dairy, and low-fat meat. Click here for more information.
- Include 150 minutes of physical activity of moderate intensity into your schedule each week. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, such as walking with a friend or riding a bike. Whatever you like! Even if you think you are too busy, add thirty minutes of exercise to your schedule daily.
- If you smoke, there is help available! Click here for help.
Sleep apnea can be diagnosed by a medical professional based on medical and family history, a physical exam, and results from sleep studies. When diagnosed, the goal of treatment is to restore regular breathing during sleep to help relieve the symptoms associated with sleep apnea. Treatment generally includes lifestyle changes, the use of breathing devices, mouthpieces, and in some cases, surgery is necessary.
Have questions about your results?
Talk with one of our 9Health Neighbor medical professionals who can answer your questions or provide you with resources for further evaluation. Call 1-800-332-3078 #2005 to leave a message and one of our medical volunteers will call you back within 24 hours.
Remember to always share the results of your screenings at your next health care provider visit.
Talk to your health care provider if you are a loud and/or regular snorer (or your bed partner has told you that you snore), if you have ever been observed to gasp or stop breathing during sleep, if you feel tired or groggy or have a headache upon waking up, are often tired, fatigued during the daytime, fall asleep while sitting, reading, watching TV or driving, or you have problems with memory or concentration.