If you (or someone you love) snore, feel chronically fatigued, have trouble concentrating and staying awake during the day, or even feel depressed, you may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
Did you know that by some estimates, 9 percent of women and 24 percent of men have some form of sleep apnea, but only about 15 – 20 percent have been diagnosed? Once women reach post-menopausal age, their likelihood of having sleep apnea is about the same as men. Even children and infants can have sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is by far the most common form. The muscles in the tongue and throat relax and close the airway during sleep, preventing oxygen from reaching the brain. The brain sends a signal to the muscles to open, and often the sufferer wakes with a gasp or snort when he or she resumes breathing. This cycle repeats continually throughout the night, preventing the sufferer from getting a good night’s sleep.
Why is Sleep Apnea Often Undiagnosed?
Symptoms of OSA (snoring, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating, sore throat, dry mouth, headaches) mimic so many other conditions, that it is often overlooked. It also only occurs during sleep, so if you sleep alone, no one may know you snore and gasp throughout the night.
OSA is not easily detected during a routine physical exam, nor are there any routine tests that would pick it up. In addition, most people with OSA have other medical conditions such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, stroke and insomnia, so many doctors focus on those conditions instead, and miss the sleep apnea.
Studies have shown than people with undiagnosed OSA visit doctors’ offices and hospitals far more often than people with similar health conditions whose OSA is being treated. You may be paying for tests and medications you don’t need, which could even worsen your OSA. For example, you may be prescribed sleeping pills for insomnia – but your insomnia is caused by your OSA, and sleeping pills often make OSA worse. The same can be true for depression. You may be taking antidepressants when you really need to be treated for OSA instead.
OSA increases your risks for diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart attacks, dementia and even cancer, which will significantly increase your medical expenses if you develop any of these conditions. Your OSA may also be causing you to miss work, thereby reducing your income.
Studies have found that people with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea have a significantly higher number of car and work-related accidents. OSA causes excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Drivers with untreated OSA are two to three times more likely to have a car accident. This isn’t far behind the rate of accidents caused by drunk drivers.
The same is true for the workplace. You are twice as likely to be in a work-related accident if you have untreated OSA. The rate of workplace errors is also much higher in people with daytime grogginess as well.
You may end up with life-altering injury or an injury resulting in death. In other words, you may die in an accident or spend your remaining days in a wheelchair. Seeking treatment for OSA can lower this risk significantly.
If you’re chronically fatigued, depressed, can’t concentrate, perform poorly at work and lack the energy to engage in pleasurable activities, your quality of life is suffering. You also may be putting your career in jeopardy because of errors, accidents, frequent absences and low productivity.
Your social relationships may be suffering as well. Your spouse or sleep partner may be unable to sleep in the same room as you due to your snoring, which impacts intimacy and sex. You may lack the energy to engage with your children or grandchildren, your friends, and your colleagues. Having a strong social network plays a large role in overall happiness, health and longevity of life.
The bottom line is your undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea may be causing fatigue and depression, which are preventing you enjoying the remaining days of your life.
Researchers have found that OSA has been linked to a variety of life-threatening medical conditions, either increasing patients’ risks of developing them or increasing their severity.
Brain Damage: Sleep apnea repeatedly starves the brain of oxygen, which it needs a steady supply of to function. The continuous lack of brain oxygen damages brain tissue. In addition, OSA can interfere with blood flow within the brain, causing spikes in blood pressure that damage the smaller arteries and capillaries within the brain. This has led researchers to believe that untreated OSA plays a factor in a variety of impaired cognition conditions, including dementia and other forms of memory loss.
Cardiovascular Diseases: OSA has also been found to increase the rate of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, stroke, heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), myocardial ischemia (decreased blood flow to the heart) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs.
In addition to increasing the risk of developing one of more of these cardiovascular conditions, it can make them worse. For example, OSA exacerbates the brain damage caused by a stroke, and increases the risk of subsequent strokes. All of these conditions have a strong likelihood of shortening your life.
Diabetes: OSA has been found to increase insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Diabetes is very common among OSA sufferers, although both conditions have a strong correlation to obesity. An untreated diabetic attack can result in death.
Asthma: People with asthma have a higher rate of OSA and this can be a deadly combination. Both conditions involve swelling and constriction of the airway. OSA can worsen asthma, and even trigger asthma attacks, which can cause death if untreated.
The reasons listed above for why you shouldn’t delay consulting Simple Sleep Services are only the beginning. New research emerges regularly on how undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea may be contributing to health problems not listed here.
If you suspect that you or someone you love may have undiagnosed OSA, Simple Sleep Services can help diagnose it and recommend treatment. Often, treatment can be as simple as wearing a custom-designed mouthpiece. Most patients begin feeling relief within the first few days once they seek treatment.
Contact us if you have questions or would like to schedule a free evaluation. We may be able to diagnose your OSA with a simple, take-home sleep test. Call 469-685-1700 or click to submit an online inquiry today!