What is sleep apnea? It occurs when breathing regularly stops for short periods while asleep. This condition can affect people in many ways, from reducing energy levels during the daytime to causing heart issues down the road. There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding this condition, and today, we’re here to clear them up!
Because you snore, you have this condition
The first common myth about this condition is that it’s synonymous with heavy snoring. Although snoring is often associated with sleep apnea, it’s entirely possible to snore but not have apnea. If in doubt, a sleep study can show whether or not you’re having episodes of sleep apnea during the night.
Because you don’t snore, you can’t have sleep apnea
Conversely, some people believe that because they don’t snore, they can’t possibly have sleep apnea episodes. It is true that the vast majority of people who have this condition also snore, and it’s the most common sign. However, a small percentage of people who have this condition don’t snore.
Kids can’t suffer from this condition
Sleep apnea is often thought of as an adult affliction, and however, it can and does affect children as well. Children who snore should be checked, especially if they are experiencing fatigue during the day. It can also cause behavioral issues and learning difficulties for kids. Once the cause of the sleep apnea is remedied and quality sleep is restored, parents often report that their child’s behavior changes for the better, and they start performing better at school. Don’t wait to get your child checked out if you hear them occasionally stop breathing at night or even just for snoring.
Only overweight people get sleep apnea
This myth is also partially based on truth in that the condition (and snoring) are more common in overweight individuals. If someone who is overweight is experiencing snoring or apnea during sleep, one of the first suggestions is to try losing weight, especially if no structural abnormalities are found to be an issue. However, the condition can show up in those at a healthy or low weight. These are often due to a structural abnormality in the nose, throat, or tongue, and it can also be due to smoking or several other causes.
Having sleep apnea means you’ll need surgery
In some cases, this is true. Sometimes, for example, when the culprit is enlarged tonsils or adenoids or a deviated nasal septum, surgery to fix the cause is advised. However, in many cases, the cause is something that can be remedied without surgery. Sometimes behavioral changes like losing weight or stopping smoking are enough. Other times devices such as a mouthpiece worn while sleeping or a CPAP machine can provide effective relief.
If you have any reason to suspect you have sleep apnea, contact an ENT for an appointment. A sleep study can show if you have the condition and how often you experience episodes of it during the night, how long each lasts, and how your blood oxygen levels are affected. These factors, along with physical examination and imaging, will be considered while determining how severe your apnea is and what treatment route to take.