Why You Should Be Concerned
If you or someone you love snore, feel chronically tired, have difficulty concentrating and staying awake during the day, you may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
1. You Might Have Sleep Apnea and Not Know It
It’s estimated that 9 percent of women and 24 percent of men have some form of sleep apnea, but only about 15 – 20 percent have been diagnosed. That number becomes the same as a man once a women becomes post-menopausal. 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.
2. Why is Sleep Apnea Often Undiagnosed?
OSA is not easily detected during a routine physical exam. 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. 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.
3. Undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea Can be Costing You Money
3. 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 may even worsen your OSA. For example, you may be prescribed sleeping pills for insomnia – but if your insomnia is caused by OSA, 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. 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.
4. The Risk of Accidents Is Much Higher
Studies have found that people with undiagnosed sleep apnea have a significantly higher number of car and work-related accidents. Remember the Exxon Valdez accident? OSA causes excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Drivers with untreated OSA are two to three times more likely to have a car accident. This is very close to the rate of accidents caused by drunk drivers. The same is true for the workplace related accidents if you have untreated OSA.
5. Your Quality of Life and Relationships Are Jeopardized
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 from enjoying the remaining days of your life.
6. Undiagnosed OSA May Be Shorten Your Life
6. Studies have shown that OSA has been linked to a variety of life-threatening medical conditions. For example brain damage, early onset dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep apnea repeatedly starves the brain of oxygen, which it needs a steady supply of to function. OSA has also been found to increase the rate of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), atrial fibrillation, 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, and stroke. Diabetes: Diabetes is very common among OSA sufferers, although both conditions have a strong correlation to obesity. OSA has been found to increase insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.