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What is Sleep Apnea? Don't Let This Harmful Condition Go Untreated

Updated on November 19, 2013

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is harmful to your health, putting you at risk for heart attacks.
Sleep apnea is harmful to your health, putting you at risk for heart attacks. | Source

What is sleep apnea? What you thought of as annoying snoring could possibly be much more. Sleep apnea happens when you stop breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time. Often disguised as just a snoring problem, any pauses in breathing are signs of sleep apnea and you should consider it a warning for your health.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

People who have sleep apnea can have many signs that usually include loud snoring, tossing and turning, chocking, and gasping for breath. Those with mild apnea have pauses in breathing up to five times every hour. Those with severe apnea may stop breathing as many as 50 times per hour.

Dangers of Sleep Apnea

If you have sleep apnea, you probably feel more tired when you wake up than you did when you went to bed. This lack of quality sleep causes you to have headaches, tiredness, memory problems, and problems with concentrating. 

If you've had sleep apnea for a long time, you may eventually have problems with depression, mood and behavior problems. And according to Science Daily, people with sleep apnea have a 30% higher chance of having heart attacks.

Are You at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

If you answer "Yes" to one or more of these questions, you're at high risk for sleep apnea. 

  • Do you snore loudly? Snoring is the #1 symptom of sleep apnea.
  • Do you have a neck measurement larger than 17" if you're a man or 16" if you're a women? This extra tissue in your neck area increases your risk.
  • Are you overweight? Being overweight is the #1 factor that increases your risk.
  • Are you over 30 years old? The chance of sleep apnea increases as you age.
  • Are you a man? Sleep apnea is 2 to 3 times more common in men than women.
  • Do you have a family history of sleep apnea? If someone in your family suffers from sleep apnea, you have a higher risk of having it too.
  • Are you Hispanics, Black, or an Pacific Islander? These races have higher rates of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea in blacks appears at an earlier age than for other races.

At Risk for Sleep Apnea? Take This Poll!

How Many Sleep Apnea Signs Mention Above Do You Have?

See results

Diagnosing & Correcting Sleep Apnea

To correctly diagnose sleep apnea, a supervised sleep study must be done at a sleep clinic. For children or adults who don’t want to have testing done at a sleep clinic, home monitors are available. These home monitors record all breathing interruptions. 

If diagnosed with apnea, you have several choices. You can choose to have a dental appliance you wear at bedtime that changes the position of your tongue and clears your airway. Or, another choice is a CPAP mask. 

CPAP is the acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. You wear this mask the nose and mouth and it forces air into your nasal passages in a continuous flow. While this mask doesn’t look comfortable, after adapting to it, CPAP users wouldn't consider sleeping without it. This mask helps them feel so much better and their quality of life improves so much. As a last resort, surgery is available to widen the palate and restructure the nasal cavity. 

If you snore, don’t ignore it. Remember that those with sleep apnea have a 30% higher chance of having heart attacks and feel bad on a daily basis. Don’t put your life at risk. If you think you have sleep apnea, have a sleep study performed and get your sleep apnea diagnosed so you can get treatment. 


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    • Debhsmomof4 profile image

      Debhsmomof4 7 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks, Ms. Dee. My husband goes next week for a sleep study so this topic is very interesting to me.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Good informative, well layed out article. Enjoyable to read on an important topic.