So, you come home after a long day of work and can’t wait to hit the bed after finishing household chores. You put on your favorite pair of pajamas, switch off your smartphone, and are all set to doze off. But then just as you’re about to fall asleep, your partner breaks into a fit of loud snoring.
If you relate to this situation, you’re not alone. Nearly 50% of adults in the U.S. report snoring in their sleep. There are plenty of factors that cause snoring, including seasonal allergies, respiratory problems, and nasal congestion. However, snoring is often associated with a more serious disorder called sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Simply put, it’s a sleep disorder that repeatedly disrupts normal breathing while a person is sleeping. Broadly, it can be categorized into the following:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome
While obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to some form of blockage or constriction of the airway, central sleep apnea is a result of the brain’s inability to send the right signals to the muscles that control our body’s breathing cycle. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is a combination of the two.
Out of these, obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is the most prevalent. It affects nearly 25 million adults in the U.S. While it’s one of the most common sleep-related ailments, there are numerous myths and misconceptions surrounding it.
In this blog, we’ll address a few such myths associated with sleep apnea. Let’s get started.
1. It’s Just Harmless Snoring
While snoring is the most common manifestation of OSA, it also disrupts your sleep cycle. It’s because sleep apnea restricts the supply of oxygen in your blood while you’re asleep. This, in turn, can cause you to wake up and gasp or breathe heavily. You could even stop breathing altogether for a few seconds.
While you might go back to sleep soon after, you’ll wake up with a bad headache and low energy levels in the morning. In the long run, this can affect your overall moods and even interfere with your professional and personal life.
Worse still, it increases your risk of developing other chronic ailments, including hypertension and diabetes. In rare cases, OSA could also have fatal consequences. That’s why you should never dismiss sleep apnea as just an episode of benign snoring.
If you or someone you know has recently developed the habit of snoring, it’s always a good idea to consult a certified ENT specialist. They’ll help you diagnose the root cause of your snoring and identify whether you’re suffering from OSA.
2. If I’m Not Snoring, I Don’t Have Sleep Apnea
Snoring is common in people suffering from sleep apnea. But it isn’t the only symptom. For instance, some people suffering from OSA may only experience heavy or distressed breathing while asleep.
Worse still, you may not always remember experiencing these symptoms and continue with your life as it is. This is especially common for people who live alone or don’t have anyone around to monitor their breathing.
That’s why it is important to know about other symptoms of OSA, such as choking, gasping for air, and difficulty staying asleep. Also, if you have OSA, you might end up with a dry or scratchy throat every morning. Or you might just feel drowsy, inattentive, and agitated throughout the day.
3. It Only Affects Adults
While OSA is more common in adults, it can also affect children. However, unlike adults, children suffering from sleep apnea often experience behavioral issues. Certain disorders, including cerebral palsy and Down’s syndrome, also make children more susceptible to OSA.
Other symptoms of pediatric OSA include:
- Labored breathing
- Snorting or coughing
- Sleep terrors
- Disturbed sleep
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Night terrors
Chronic sleep apnea in kids can lead to a wide array of other problems, including poor academic performance and learning disabilities. Worse still, it can lead to cardiac disorders and even death. If you know a child breathes heavily or chokes in their sleep, make sure you advise their parents to consult a pediatrician.
4. You Can’t Use a Weighted Blanket If You Have Sleep Apnea
Weighted blankets have emerged as a blessing for people who have trouble sleeping. These therapeutic blankets contain plastic pellets or glass beads that apply firm and gentle pressure on your body to relax your nervous system.
Apart from managing insomnia, weighted blankets are also used to relieve anxiety, stress, and chronic pain. Likewise, these blankets can help children with sensory processing issues remain calm and focused. Whether you’re looking for a children’s weighted blanket or an iced blanket, you’ll find plenty of options.
But many people suffering from sleep apnea are concerned that the extra weight of the blanket can disrupt their breathing even further. In reality, however, a weighted blanket relaxes the muscles in your body and reduces your heart rate, thereby helping you breathe easier.
However, if you have sleep apnea or any other respiratory disorder, it’s wiser to consult a physician and discuss whether it’s safe to use a weighted blanket. Likewise, if you’re contemplating getting a weighted blanket for your kid, make sure you consult their pediatrician first.
5. It Only Happens to Obese People
Yes. Overweight or obese people are more likely to develop OSA because of the extra fat constricting their upper airways. However, increased body weight isn’t the only cause of sleep apnea. Even if you’re fit and active, you might be genetically or anatomically predisposed to the disorder.
Also, other factors, including alcohol consumption and smoking can lead you to develop OSA. In children, it’s often caused by enlarged adenoids and tonsils. It can also be a result of your sleeping position.
While sleep apnea is fairly common, it often goes undiagnosed in most children and adults. However, it can have various adverse consequences, including heart failure and death. Make sure you watch out for subtle signs such as a dry mouth or headache after waking up to detect the onset of sleep apnea.
What techniques are you using to manage obstructive sleep apnea? Share your suggestions in the comments section below