"Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Facts:
OSA is a sleep disorder in which a person"s airway collapses during sleep, preventing air from getting to the lungs.
In severe cases, breathing can stop more than 100 times per hour.
OSA affects more than 18 million Americans and can cause both short-term and long-term effects on a person"s health.
Despite the risks associated with OSA, up to 90% of sufferers are undiagnosed, due in part to several common misconceptions.
OSA Myths Debunked:
Myth: OSA only affects men.
Truth: The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 6 million American women suffer from this disorder. New research suggests that OSA is linked to depression and female sexual dysfunction. In addition, gestational OSA can develop in those who are pregnant.
Myth: Only older/overweight people have OSA.
Truth: While weight can be a contributing factor for the development of OSA, people of all shapes, sizes and ages can be diagnosed with sleep apnea. In those with thin or average builds, excess tissue in the throat or the structure and position of the jaw can play a role in the development of OSA. Other contributing risk factors include the use of alcohol or sedatives which can relax the tissue and muscles surrounding the upper airway smoking, a family history and aging.
Myth: I"m healthy, I"m just tired.
Truth: The consequences of untreated OSA go far beyond simply leaving a person exhausted and groggy. Obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, stroke and sexual dysfunction are just some of the health problems that are connected to sleep apnea. In fact, a recent study showed that those with obstructive sleep apnea are three times more likely to die from any cause than those without the sleep disorder.
Myth: Everyone snores, what"s the problem?
Truth: Millions of people snore on and off throughout the night, which is a normal part of sleeping. However, heavy snoring that is accompanied by gasping or choking for air is a leading indicator of OSA. Although this process would seem disturbing during sleep, most OSA sufferers are not aware that this cycle repeats itself hundreds of times every night.
Myth: I am tired because I"m depressed.
Truth: Untreated OSA and depression share similar symptoms such as lethargy, excessive fatigue, trouble concentrating, weight gain and irritability. While many are quick to recognize these symptoms as a sign of a depressive disorder, they may also be the result of OSA. Recent studies have shown that patients who treat their OSA experience an improvement in symptoms that mimic depression.
Myth: It is uncomfortable to sleep with the mask on.
Truth: CPAP, short for continuous positive airway pressure, is the most common and effective treatment for OSA. CPAP users wear a mask connected to a small machine that supplies continuous airflow through the nose, which prevents the collapse of the airways. Although the majority of people take to the mask right away, some find it uncomfortable and decide to discontinue treatment. However, masks come in many shapes and sizes so unhappy CPAP users should not hesitate to look into other models.
Myth: Undergoing a study in a sleep lab is too inconvenient.
Truth: Historically, being tested for OSA required patients to spend the night in a certified sleep lab where heart rate, respiration, blood oxygen levels, airflow and the electrical activity of the brain were monitored. However, earlier this year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the reimbursement of CPAP treatment for OSA patients that were diagnosed wearing portable monitoring equipment in the comfort of their own home. This decision could lead to a monumental shift in how millions of OSA sufferers are diagnosed and may result in significantly increased diagnosis and treatment rates.
Myth: OSA doesn"t affect my driving.
Truth: Untreated OSA not only leaves people exhausted, it also makes them a danger on the roads. In fact, a drowsy driver poses just as much risk to his or her self and the motoring public as a drunk driver. Researchers at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth, N.J. determined that a sleep deficit of four hours can result in the same cognitive decline as a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent, by which a driver is considered legally drunk. According to The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, drowsy drivers cause more fatalities per accident than drunk drivers."