Here Are 4 Misconceptions About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a harmful condition that most people are unaware they suffer from. It can cause plenty of symptoms throughout the day (and night) that can interfere with everyday life. If you feel as if you or your partner is suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to understand it in order to treat it properly. There are many misconceptions surrounding sleep apnea that just aren’t true, which can deter people from getting the help they need. Keep reading to learn more about the top misconceptions about sleep apnea and how to get proper sleep apnea treatment.

What is Sleep Apnea?

According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder, a group of sleep disorders characterized by abnormal breathing patterns during sleep.

People with sleep apnea repeatedly have reductions or pauses in breathing for brief periods while they sleep. Although these lapses cause a person to awaken periodically and reduce sleep quality, sleepers may not fully wake up and remain unaware that their nighttime breathing is abnormal.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Abnormal breathing patterns, such as breathing that slows down, speeds up, and pauses during sleep
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dry mouth upon awakening
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches in the morning that may persist for several hours after waking up
  • Increased need to get up from bed to urinate
  • Irritability or frustration
  • Loud snoring that is often punctuated by gasping or choking sounds
  • Reduced focus
  • Restless sleep with periods of wakefulness during the night
  • Sudden shortness of breath or chest pains at night

#1: You Need a CPAP Machine

One of the most common misconceptions about sleep apnea and sleep apnea treatment is that you will be required to wear a CPAP machine should you be diagnosed with sleep apnea. There are many benefits to a CPAP machine, including improving your sleep, lowering your blood pressure, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular issues. However, there are many cons. Some of these include:

  • They’re uncomfortable. CPAP machines can cause discomfort and difficulty falling asleep for the user and their partner. They are loud, cover most of the face, and are just downright uncomfortable for many people. It can also cause anxiety and claustrophobia.
  • Causes skin issues. Due to the high pressure and the long wear of the mask, CPAP machines can cause nasal congestion, dry mouth, nosebleeds, skin irritations, sores, and acne.
  • Inconvenient. If you are someone who travels often, CPAP machines can be very inconvenient. You will either need to travel with your equipment or find an alternative, which can be difficult and embarrassing.

In addition, CPAP machines can be dangerous. There was a recent major CPAP machine recall that was triggered by scary events. Here is what the FDA says:

In June 2021, Philips recalled certain ventilators, BiPAP machines, and CPAP machines (see table below) because of potential health risks. The polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR) foam used in these devices to reduce sound and vibration can break down. If this occurs, black pieces of foam, or certain chemicals that are not visible, could be breathed in or swallowed by the person using the device. These issues could potentially result in serious injury and require medical intervention to prevent permanent injury. The PE-PUR foam issue may result from exposure to hot and humid conditions and may be exacerbated by the use of ozone cleaners or other cleaning methods not recommended by the manufacturer.

Finally, it is important to understand that CPAP machines are simply a bandaid. Sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction, and until the obstruction is treated or removed, the sleep apnea will never be fully cured. This is why it is so important to see a sleep apnea specialist to properly diagnose the source of your sleep apnea and treat its root cause, rather than resorting to a CPAP machine that doesn’t do anything to actually help your condition.

#2: It Only Happens If You’re Overweight

Another misconception about sleep apnea is that it only happens to people who are overweight. While weight can be a risk factor for sleep apnea, it can happen to people of any size. This is because the obstruction causing the sleep apnea can be anything from dental work, large tonsils, genetics of the face, TMJ, and many more.

Other causes of sleep apnea include:

  • Age: The risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea increases with age until a person is in their 60s and 70s.
  • Sex: Men or people assigned male at birth are generally more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea, especially in the earlier stages of adulthood.
  • Head and neck anatomy: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs more frequently in people who have specific anatomical features, including a larger tongue and a shorter lower jaw.
  • Body weight: Multiple studies have found a correlation between a higher body mass index (BMI) and an elevated risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Cigarette smoking: Some research has found a noticeably higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea in people who smoke cigarettes compared to people who have quit or never smoked.
  • Hormone abnormalities: Hormone conditions like an underactive thyroid or excess production of growth hormone may increase the risk of OSA12 by causing swelling of tissue13 near the airway or by contributing to a higher body mass index.
  • Sleeping position: Sleep apnea may develop or be worsened when people sleep on their back14 because of how that sleeping position affects the shape and positioning15 of the tissue around the airway.
  • Family history of sleep apnea: There are some indications that a family history of OSA can increase a person’s risk of obstructive sleep apnea, which may relate to anatomical features in the head and neck that are shared among family members.
  • Nasal congestion: Difficulty breathing through the nose has been linked with a higher likelihood of having OSA.
  • Using alcohol and some medications: Alcohol and some prescription and narcotic drugs are associated with an elevated risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Certain medical conditions: People with some medical problems, including several heart and lung conditions, may have a greater tendency to develop OSA.

#3: It Goes Away On Its Own

Think that you or your partner’s snoring is just a phase? Think again! Sleep apnea does not go away on its own. While some lifestyle changes may help alleviate symptoms, they will not help the sleep apnea go away entirely. The only way to truly fix your sleep apnea is by seeing a sleep apnea specialist who can properly determine the source of your sleep apnea and treat it at its root cause.

Some lifestyle changes you can make to help alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Weight loss to take pressure off your neck and chest
  • More exercise to boost oxygen and energy levels (even if it does not lead to weight loss)
  • Quit drinking and smoking
  • Avoid certain medications, such as muscle relaxers, benzodiazepines, and certain sleep medications
  • Change your sleep position or try new pillows
  • Treat your nasal congestion and allergies

#4: It’s Not A Big Deal

So you snore when you sleep—what’s the big deal? Believing that sleep apnea isn’t a big deal is one of the most dangerous misconceptions about this condition. Many people may not recognize that they have it, so if your partner snores, it is especially important that you alert them and urge them to get treatment as soon as possible. Sleep apnea has been associated with a higher risk of a diverse range of health problems, including:

  • Car accidents from drowsy driving
  • Cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, heart disease, and an abnormal heartbeat
  • Metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes
  • Pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs that place excess strain on the heart
  • Thinking problems such as impaired memory and concentration
  • Mood disturbances including irritability and a higher risk of depression
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is an increase in fat deposits in the liver that can contribute to serious liver damage
  • Anesthesia-related complications during surgery
  • Obesity and related complications
  • Depression and anxiety

Sleep apnea can also occur in children. There is no reason a child should be snoring (unless they are sick), so if your child has this habit, it is important to take it seriously. Some issues that can stem from pediatric sleep apnea include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Learning difficulties
  • Behavior issues
  • Misdiagnosed with ADHD
  • Night sweats
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleepwalking
  • Issues with growth and development

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Proper treatment for sleep apnea is critical in order to completely rid it at its source. When sleep apnea is addressed with the proper treatment, risks associated with the condition are significantly reduced. After the patient has received a sleep apnea diagnosis, Dr. Gorman will talk with them about their symptoms, review their medical history, and may perform a scan utilizing state-of-the-art dental technology to evaluate possible obstructions. Once he is familiar with the details of their condition, Dr. Gorman will create a personalized treatment plan with the goal of improving their nighttime breathing. This often involves the use of a custom-fitted dental appliance the patient will wear while sleeping.

For example, if the patient’s sleep apnea is caused by the tongue relaxing in the throat, a tongue-retaining device may be the ideal treatment for maintaining an open airway. Should an abnormal jaw position be causing breathing difficulties, Dr. Gorman may recommend a special device to correct this alignment, such as a mouthpiece or a device strapped around the head. Oral devices used to address sleep apnea are removable and typically resemble athletic mouthguards.

Sleep Apnea Help with Gorman Health and Wellness

If you are ready to treat your sleep apnea without the use of a CPAP machine and significantly reduce your risk for further health issues, Gorman Health and Wellness is here for you.

Dr. Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.

Together, the application of these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.

“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour, allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.

For more information on Dr. Gorman, improving your sleep apnea, contact us today.

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