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  • Posted June 12, 2021

More Than a Snore? Recognize the Signs of Sleep Apnea

Does your bed partner claim that you snore?

If so, don't just tune him or her out. It may mean you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Untreated sleep apnea -- which causes repeated breathing interruptions during sleep -- can lead to serious health problems, so the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) wants you to consider: Is it more than a snore?

"While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, snoring is a warning sign that should be taken seriously," said AASM President Dr. Kannan Ramar. "If your bed partner snores, or if you've been told that you snore, then it is important to talk to a medical provider about screening or testing for sleep apnea."

Treating obstructive sleep apnea can improve overall health and quality of life, he added.

Nearly 70% of Americans who sleep with a partner say their bed mate snores, according to a 2021 AASM survey. The same survey found that 26% of Americans are unfamiliar with OSA, and 48% don't know its symptoms.

Nearly 30 million U.S. adults have OSA, but AASM estimates that 23.5 million of those cases are undiagnosed.

These are the five warning signs to be aware of: snoring, choking or gasping during sleep; fatigue or daytime sleepiness; obesity; and high blood pressure.

Other indications of apnea include: unrefreshing sleep, insomnia, morning headaches, waking during the night to go to the bathroom, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, decreased sexual desire, irritability, or difficulty staying awake while watching TV or driving.

"Delaying treatment for sleep apnea can lead to more serious health problems," Ramar said. "Fortunately, many of the damaging effects of sleep apnea can be stopped, and even reversed, through diagnosis and treatment by the sleep team at an accredited sleep center, where patients receive care in safe and comfortable accommodations."

The typical treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP keeps the airway open by providing a steady stream of air through a mask that's worn while sleeping.

Using CPAP can improve quality of sleep, boost daytime alertness, concentration and mood and even improve brain and heart health, according to AASM.

Other treatments include positional therapy, oral appliance therapy and surgery.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on sleep apnea.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, June 8, 2021

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