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When Snoring is Dangerous:
Facts about Sleep Apnea

Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The contents of this website are for informational purposes only.

Has your partner ever poked you in the ribs and complained that you were snoring just way too loud or have they told you on multiple occasions that you weren’t breathing while you were sleeping? Have you ever woken up gasping for air or found yourself exhausted in the morning with no idea exactly why?

These could all be signs of sleep apnea.


Section 1

What Is Sleep Apnea?


Section 2

What Are the Potential Dangers?


Section 3

When Is Snoring Something More?


Section 4

How Do You Treat It?

01

What Is Sleep Apnea?

There Are Three Types


Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive refers to the blockage of the airway due to the muscles in the throat intermittently becoming relaxed. [1]
Central sleep apnea is caused by improper signals sent from the brain to the muscles in control of your breathing. [1]

Central Sleep Apnea

Complex Sleep Apnea
The term “Complex” is used to describe a form of the condition that combines both forms of the disorders. [1]

If you are worried that you might have this condition, you are not alone. The condition is surprisingly common and affects sleepers of all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders around the world.

Over 18 million adults in America have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.


[2] National Sleep Foundation

About 90 percent of sleep apnea sufferers go undiagnosed.


[3] US News

While this condition can, and does, affect people from walks of life, it is typically diagnosed in men. However, there are some specific demographics who should keep the disorder in mind and talk to a doctor if they find themselves experiencing symptoms.

Types of Undiagnosed Sleepers

Approximately 17 percent of women are afflicted with OSA. Around 90 percent are likely to be undiagnosed.


[4] Psychology Today

Group of Women Illustration

15 percent of children experience breathing difficulties due to a sleeping disorder. Only 10 percent are likely to have a diagnosis and treatment. Many of these disorders are mischaracterized as emotional or psychological issues in young children.


[5] Osteopathic

One recent study indicated college athletes as much more at risk for OSA than the average middle-aged male, with 43 percent of those studied showing sympotms.


[6] ERS Journals

College Athletes Illustration

02

What Are the Potential Dangers?

At this point, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal if my possible sleep apnea isn’t diagnosed?” A lot of people think it boils down to some loud and gnarly snoring and not much else. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

ECG Checking At The Doctors Office
Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart health issues including arrhythmia, heart attack, and high blood pressure.


[2] National Sleep Foundation

Athletes with untreated OSA are more likely to have low oxygen levels in the blood and higher pulse rates. This could lead to heart health issues down the road.


[6] ERS Journals

Statistics show children with undiagnosed sleep disorders are in need of healthcare at a rate of 226 percent more than people without these afflictions.


[5] Osteopathic

Pregnant women who suffer from this disorder tend to have an increased risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, or even death.


[4] Psychology Today

Along with general sleep deprivation and the health complications that this can cause, untreated sleep apnea may prove to be fatal. A recent study indicated the risk of death to have increased threefold in patients with this disorder. Eliminating patients who treat their sleep apnea with CPAP therapy raised the risk by 4.3.

Sleep apnea is cited as a contributing factor in Carrie Fisher’s death, along with heart health issues and complications of drug use.


[7] AP News

Some other famous OSA sufferers include Shaquille O’Neal, William Shatner, and Regis Philbin.


[8] Advanced Sleep Medicine Services. Inc.


03

When Is Snoring Something More?

There are a few key symptoms that most people know they should be looking for when they are trying to determine whether or not to talk to a doctor about whether their snoring is a sign of something more dangerous. Waking up gasping for breath, unusually loud snoring, and pauses or gaps between breathing can all be signs of the disorder.

 

Other, less-known symptoms people may not be aware of can include headaches and depression — especially in women. More frequent trips to the bathroom, heartburn, and changes in dreams (either frequency or content) may also be signs of an undiagnosed affliction.

 

There are a few extra symptoms to pay attention to when determining if a child may have the disorder, as well. Jaw-clenching, teeth-grinding, frequent bed-wetting, migraines, and irritability may be present if the condition is left untreated. Because they are not receiving the proper amount of adequate rest, children with this disorder may appear unfocused or hyperactive during the daytime.

A Wife Having Struggle To Fall Asleep and Husband Snoring Loundly

According to the American College of Chest Physicians, learning problems are twice as likely to appear in children who snore loudly.


[9] National Sleep Foundation

Always talk to a doctor if you think you or someone you know may be showing symptoms of sleep apnea or another sleeping disorder.


04

How Do You Treat It?

Treatment for sleep apnea could be as non-invasive as quitting smoking, losing weight, or treating nasal allergies.


[1] Mayo Clinic

A possible benefit to stomach sleeping is the possible prevention of OSA.


[10] Sleep Advisor

It may be possible to train the mouth and throat to snore less through specifically designed exercises that strengthen the jaw, back of the throat, or soft palate. Benefits may not be immediately apparent, however. Some sleepers may see improvement up to three months after beginning a routine of frequent tongue, throat, and mouth exercises.

Tiger Yell

Tiger Yell Exercise Animation

Stretch the mouth and throat as though you were to scream or yawn, but don't actually do either. This is said to strengthen the back of the throat. [11]

Jaw Tension

Jaw Tension Exercise Animation Gif

Touch the tongue to the top of the mouth. Open the throat with the tip of the tongue still touching. Repeat for a total of 10 times to strengthen the jaw. [11]


FUN FACT: Learning to play the didgeridoo could help strengthen the upper airways!


Soft Palate Blowing

Soft Palate Blowing Animation Gif

Breathe in through the nose, close your mouth and push air through the lips without opening them. You should feel resistance in the back of the throat. The exercise is intended to strengthen the palate. [11]

Tongue Slide

Tongue Slide Exercise Animation

Another jaw-strengthening technique that works by simple trying to touch the tip of the tongue to your nose. Hold the pose for a few seconds and repeat 10 times. [11]

According to the Mayo Clinic, if these simple fixes don’t the trick, a continuous positive airway pressure device, or CPAP machine, may be used to improve air pressure. Other styles of air pressure machines or oral appliances that position the mouth and throat in such a way as to allow airflow may also be considered as treatment options.

In some cases, surgery may be a necessity. Tissue that blocks airflow may be removed or reduced. Removal of the tonsils, repositioning of the jaw, and tracheostomy are examples of the more invasive methods used to treat the condition.

Remember

It is very important to be checked out by a doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnea or another sleeping disorder.

Some people may be embarrassed to admit to their medical professional that they snore. Others might consider a few sleepless nights to be a mere inconvenience and ignore the symptoms, not realizing the dangers that could be involved. Treatment is the key to higher-quality rest and better overall health.

Don’t ignore your snoring!

Sleep Advisor