5 Myths About Sleep Apnea You Need to Avoid
- October 30, 2016
A few days ago, I posted a blog about an elite baseball player who struggled with sleep apnea for the better part of a decade. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest checking it out. His story is probably not different from the many Oregon City dental patients I’ve treated for sleep apnea.
I’ve studied sleep apnea since dental school, and it’s still amazing to me how connected this problem is to our overall health and wellness. In fact, the more I study sleep apnea, the more it concerns me. There are roughly 18 million Americans living with sleep apnea. In many of these cases, people have downplayed their issues or they are not aware they even have a problem. There isn’t a ton of great information out there about sleep apnea, and I’m worried that people are following bad advice or outdated sleep apnea myths. So today, I want to clear up 5 of the biggest sleep apnea myths that you need to stop believing.
1. Snoring and sleep apnea are the same thing. MYTH. Snoring is the most common sign of sleep apnea, but it’s possible to have sleep apnea and not snore. Additionally, simple snoring can be its own condition. Sleep apnea is divided into two different categories: central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. The most common sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. It occurs when the tissues block the airways in the throat. Patients who have this blockage often snore or wake up at night gasping for air. But snoring is merely a sign of sleep apnea; it’s not a cause.
2. Sleep apnea is not an overall health problem. MYTH. This is probably the most dangerous myth about sleep apnea. The truth is that sleep apnea can be deadly. You can suddenly stop breathing at night or increase your risk of deadly problems like high blood pressure or congestive heart failure. Patients who have sleep apnea also can gain weight, a problem that is connected to a host of serious medical problems.
3. Sleep apnea only affects older men. MYTH. Sleep apnea is a problem that knows no age limits. While middle-age men are more susceptible to having sleep apnea, women and men of all ages can suffer from sleep apnea. That includes children. The baseball player I mentioned earlier struggled with sleep apnea throughout his 20s. He was a young man, and was struggling with a serious sleep condition that affected his overall health.
4. CPAP therapy is the only way to treat sleep apnea. MYTH. CPAP therapy remains the gold standard for treating sleep apnea. The system works by continuously pushing air into the oral cavity to keep the airways open during sleep. But the problem is that many patients find the CPAP machine to be cumbersome or uncomfortable. Bed partners also complain about the noise of the CPAP. One of the best alternatives to the CPAP machine is an oral appliance. The appliance pushes the lower jaw forward to keep the airways open while you sleep. The appliances are comfortable, and patients report seeing their symptoms fade away after using the device a few nights.
5. Sleep apnea will go away on its own. MYTH. There is a chance that some lifestyle changes like losing weight can help you manage your sleep apnea. But there is no known cure for sleep apnea, other than surgery, which is invasive. In fact, if you wait around to treat your problems, your symptoms will get worse! That’s a lot to risk considering how sleep apnea rubs elbows with some dangerous overall health illnesses.
It’s frightening for me to think about my patients following bad dental advice. Keep these tips in my mind when you’re considering treating your sleep apnea issues. You can call our office today at 503-388-4691 or use the appointment form to book a visit.