Sleep apnea refers to a sleep related disorder characterized by shallow breathing or abnormal pauses in breathing while a person is asleep. Each of these gaps marked by breathlessness is called an apnea. An apnea could last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Usually, normal breathing resumes after an apnea (this might be accompanied by a loud choking sound).
Normal breathing V/S Breathing during an apnea:
More often than not, Sleep Apnea Myths get diagnosed when the affected person starts complaining of fatigue during daytime, slow reflexes, tired eyes, inability to concentrate during the day and problems related to vision- all caused by deprivation of sleep.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea: Since people do not know too much about it, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about this disorder that need to be dispelled.
Myth: It is just another ‘phase’ during snoring.
Fact: More often than not, sleep apnea is mistaken with snoring. But this is not the truth. Not all the people who snore suffer experience difficulty in breathing or bouts of breathlessness while they snore. Though most people affected by sleep apnea snore as well, not all snorers suffer from sleep apnea.
Myth: It affects only men.
Fact: Though a majority of people affected by sleep apnea are men, it cannot be ruled among women as well. A woman suffering from sleep apnea is usually more forgetful, more highly irritable suffers from loss of libido and is given in to lethargy during her waking hours.
Myth: It affects only obese people.
Fact: Preposterous again! Though obese people are more likely to be affected by this disorder, there is no evidence to suggest that thinner people cannot be affected by sleep apnea at all. Here are the findings of research that prove beyond any doubt that thinner people can also get affected by sleep apnea. Obese people as a percentage of the total number affected by Sleep Apnea
Myth: Sleep apnea means that the affected person suffers from a pulmonary (related to lungs) disorder.
Fact: Sleep apnea is not caused by respiratory problems. It is caused by the collapse of the airway while a person is asleep, and this collapse is brought about by a number of factors, which are usually cardiovascular and not pulmonary. People suffering from sleep apnea are twice as likely to die due to a stroke.
Myth: The only option for people affected by Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is to opt for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) ventilation.
Fact: Though CPAP is the easier way out, people affected by sleep apnea would do well, to begin with trying to lose some weight and change their eating habits too. Excessive intake of alcohol, sleeping pills, and antidepressants causes the throat muscles to relax, and are a major contributing factor towards the collapse of the airway at night. If the problem persists even after introducing changes in lifestyle and shedding weight, CPAP would be a good option.
Conclusion: The biggest hurdle in treating sleep apnea is diagnosing it. Once it has been diagnosed, treating it is not such a major task. A competent sleep specialist can help an affected person get rid of this problem and sleep peacefully.