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How To Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea

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Left Untreated Your Health Can Suffer

How to know if you have sleep apnea

Imagine if you had trouble breathing 30 times an hour while you were awake, causing you to lose your breath, choke and cough. Youd likely rush to your closest emergency room in a panic. For as many as one in 15 people, this is exactly what happens to them while they sleep. The condition is called sleep apnea, and it can lead to a range of serious health issues if left untreated.

Unfortunately, many cases do go untreated, simply because the person suffering from sleep apnea has no idea theyre dealing with such a serious medical condition.

“Many of our patients come in because a bed partner or roommate notices snoring and disrupted sleep,” explained Dr. Sreelatha Naik, Geisinger sleep physician. “However, many patients are referred to us by cardiologists and other specialists that recognize some of the effects of sleep apnea, such as heart disease and stroke. Recognizing the symptoms early can help you get treatment before the related health issues go from bad to worse.”

The common signs of sleep apnea

Although you may not know you have sleep apnea since youre sleeping or nearly sleeping when it happens there are some clues that you should watch for:

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

What happens if you have sleep apnea?

Resulting health problems include:

  • Arrhythmia, such as AFib or heart flutters
  • Heart attack

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is The Most Common Subtype Of The Condition

The throat muscles support the soft tissues in the back of the throat such as the soft palate, the uvula, the tonsils, and tongue so when those muscles collapse too much, those tissues can fall back into the throat, partially or completely blocking the normal flow of air in your airway. When the airway is blocked partially the person may start to snore, which is why this symptom is common in OSA.

When your brain senses that you arent getting enough oxygen, it signals your body to wake up enough so that you can reopen your airway, and you may gasp for air during the night. Simply put, having obstructive sleep apnea means that not enough air can get into lungs at night, and your brain wakes you up to breathe, says Robson Capasso, MD, chief of sleep surgery and associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

Research indicates that cases of obstructive sleep apnea have risen significantly in the last two decades. This is likely due to two main factors: Obesity has increased dramatically and there is more awareness about sleep apnea among doctors and the public at large, so more people are being screened and diagnosed, says James Rowley, MD, professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, and a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine .

How Do You Know If You Have Sleep Apnea

You can figure out if you have sleep apnea by visiting your doctor for an examination. Your doctor can review your medical history or conduct a physical exam to determine any possible causes for your symptoms.

Another way to diagnose sleep apnea is with a sleep study. These studies can happen from home with todays technology. The devices analyze your breathing, airflow, heart rate, and blood oxygen throughout the night.

  • If you experience sleep disorders
  • Occurrences of sleep apnea
  • If treatment is effective

After your doctor diagnoses you with sleep apnea, they recommend treatments to help you sleep better. They have several ways to treat this condition.

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Snoring And Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects millions of people in the U.S. each year. Luckily, it is among the easiest sleep disorders to treat.

Sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue. People suffering from sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during sleep as many as several hundred times a night. This results in multiple awakenings, which may cause sleepiness during waking hours. Sleep apnea can have major consequences if not treated. Headaches, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke have been associated with sleep apnea.

The following are just a few examples of how treating sleep apnea can positively affect your overall health.

  • Sleep apnea is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Treating it can improve blood pressure levels.
  • Treating sleep apnea can improve your overall mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
  • Treating sleep apnea can improve congestive heart failure.
  • Sexual dysfunction in men can improve when sleep apnea is properly treated.
  • Treating sleep apnea can decrease the severity of acid reflux disease.
  • Blood sugar control can improve with treatment of sleep apnea.

First What All Types Of Sleep Apnea Have In Common

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Because these awakenings are typically very brief, the person with sleep apnea may not even be aware that they are experiencing interrupted sleep. But the episodes can wreak havoc on the sleep cycle and prevent the person with sleep apnea from reaching the deep, restful phases of sleep. And thats why people who have sleep apnea can experience significant exhaustion and drowsiness the next day, despite getting what they thought was a full night of sleep.

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Most Accurate Test To Diagnose Sleep Apnea

While it may seem simple enough to self-diagnose it really is important to get it checked out by a professional.

In most cases if you see your regular doc or visit a sleep center, they’ll either dismiss you or just strap a CPAP on your head, because this is their one-size-fits-all solution. Some sleep centers and big health systems make you do your sleep study in a strange bed, in a hospital setting, hooked up to wires and hoses and buzzing machines and then tell you how poorly you slept gee, cant imagine why that would be

The best sleep youre going to get is sleep that’s in the comfort of your own bed. Thats why at ADVENT, our sleep studies are done at home. This small and effective test can be as easy as putting a bandaid on your fingertip. You can get instant results on your smartphone, like your oxygen levels and how many interrupted sleep events you experienced.

And when you meet with an ADVENT Sleep Specialist they’ll examine the anatomy of your Breathing Triangle┬« the three holes for breathing, your mouth and two nostrils to see what is really going on and what is likely obstructing your airflow.

How To Know If You Have Mild Sleep Apnea And What To Do About It

    The spectrum of sleep apnea includes different kinds of it as well as different levels of severity. The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea , which is a disease that impacts 26 percent of Americans aged 30 to 70. OSA can be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe.

    If you have moderate to severe OSA, there is plenty of information and treatment options available to you. However, what if you have mild sleep apnea? Should you still pursue any sort of medical intervention? Is there something you can do about it without medical advice?

    Lets dive into the ins and outs of mild sleep apnea.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Mild Sleep Apnea

    When you hear the word mild, you may think there isnt much to worry about, but when it comes to OSA, a mild diagnosis can still interfere with your life.

    A British study published in The Lancet showed that three months of CPAP therapy improved the quality of life in those with mild OSA. With untreated mild sleep apnea, youll likely experience apnea and hypopnea events and snore or gasp while sleeping. Youll generally experience undesired daytime sleepiness or feeling drowsy when engaging in a relaxing activity such as watching TV.

    How Is Sleep Apnoea Diagnosed

    How to Know If You Have Sleep Apnea? | Katherine Green, MD, Sleep medicine | UCHealth

    If you think you or someone you know has the signs and symptoms of sleep apnoea, see a GP. If your GP suspects you may have sleep apnoea, you may be referred to a sleep specialist.

    Depending on their examination and assessment, your GP or sleep physician may arrange for you to have a sleep study.

    A sleep study is a medical test used to diagnose a range of sleep disorders including sleep apnoea. A sleep study looks at what you do when you go to sleep. Most sleep studies measure:

    • brain signals
    • oxygen levels in the blood
    • sleep position and limb movements
    • heart rate
    • breathing and snoring.

    You will be attached to a portable machine and monitoring leads will be placed on your body to track your sleep throughout the night.

    Sleep studies can be done at home or by staying overnight in a special sleep clinic and are provided in public and private health services.

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    Other Positive Airway Pressure Breathing Devices

    In addition to CPAP, there are other devices that a sleep specialist may recommend for sleep apnea treatment.

    Expiratory positive airway pressure single-use devices fit over the nostrils to help keep the airway open and are smaller, less intrusive than CPAP machines. These may benefit people with mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

    Bilevel positive airway pressure devices can be used for those who are unable to adapt to using CPAP, or for central sleep apnea sufferers who need assistance for a weak breathing pattern. This device automatically adjusts the pressure while youre sleeping, providing more pressure when you inhale, less when you exhale. Some BiPAP devices also automatically deliver a breath if the mask detects that you havent taken one for a certain number of seconds.

    Adaptive servo-ventilation devices can be used for treating central sleep apnea as well as obstructive sleep apnea. The ASV device stores information about your normal breathing pattern and automatically uses airflow pressure to prevent pauses in your breathing while youre asleep.

    Talk To Your Partner About Getting A Sleep Apnea Test

    Sleep apnea can severely affect your rest and your partners quality of life, which is why it is important to figure out if that is what is causing their sleep disruptions. One of the only ways to determine if someone has sleep apnea is to get them tested.

    Before you do that, you can spend some time doing some of your research online as well as observing and recording your partners sleep habits. This helps you gather some information and evidence that there may be an issue such as sleep apnea.

    Then, talk to them about your concerns and what you can do to help.

    If you both feel they should get tested for sleep apnea, they have a few options. Traditionally, sleep apnea tests are done in a medical facility where the patient is hooked up to machines and observed as they sleep. Another option is to get an at-home sleep apnea test, like ApneaMed.

    The ApneaMed at-home sleep study is self-administered from the comfort of your bed. It records and monitors blood oxygen saturation, blood oxygen levels, breathing, and heart rate during sleep. Then, you can send the test to a board-certified physician that reviews the results and will help determine the best treatment option.

    Learn more about ApneaMeds at-home sleep apnea test by contacting our team 276-3263.

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    How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea

    Unless you have someone sleeping next to you to tell you that youre snoring or that youve stopped breathing in your sleep, you likely wont know. That probably sounds pretty obvious, since the two biggest tell-tale signs of sleep apnea are audible things you wont hear because youre asleep!

    And even if you do have someone who lets you know about all the odd sounds you make at night, theyre pretty easy to write off as nothing to worry about.

    It shouldnt have to take a serious illness, disease or a sleep divorce to get your attention. If you even question whether or not you have sleep apnea, chances are you have it and its time to get an official medical diagnosis.

    Consult With A Doctor

    How to know if your partner has sleep apnea

    If you suspect that sleep apnea is disrupting your health, the next step is to consult with a doctor as soon as possible. A physician can help you identify, understand, and treat the root causes. This can mean changing your lifestyle and diet, wearing a mouthpiece to open airways, using breathing devices, or undergoing surgery as a last resort to improve your nighttime breathing.

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    Consequences Of Untreated Sleep Apnea

    That lack of oxygen to your body and brain caused by sleep apnea can really affect your quality of life and put you at risk for other health issues. For example, if this condition isnt treated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, stroke, cardiomyopathy , heart failure, diabetes, and heart attacks. In addition to the physical side effects, youre putting yourself at risk daily for falling asleep during the day at the worst times like when youre driving or working.

    The Most Common Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

    The nine most common signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring, which is more often seen in obstructive sleep apnea
  • Times where your bed partner notices you stop breathing
  • Waking abruptly with shortness of breath, which is more often seen in central sleep apnea
  • Having a dry or sore throat when you awake
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • More daytime sleepiness, which can lead to work-related mishaps or traffic accidents
  • Problems with attention and concentration
  • Getting up to urinate during the night
  • Irritability
  • The body wants to breathe more than anything else and does whatever it can to make sure your airway doesnt close, says Dr. Lance. That means not getting into the very deep stages of sleep where the airway relaxes and can close.

    Sleep apnea is seldom fatal by itself. However, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes. Additionally, it is linked to worsening heart failure and irregular heartbeats. If you have sleep apnea, it can making treating chronic diseases complicated, too.

    The best way to know if you have sleep apnea is to undergo a sleep pattern study as part of your initial work-up.

    A doctor should be involved, Dr. Lance says. You really don’t know the severity of sleep apnea until you test for it.

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    How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed

    If your doctor determines that you have symptoms suggestive of sleep apnea, you may be asked to have a sleep evaluation with a sleep specialist or may order an overnight sleep study to objectively evaluate for sleep apnea.

    • Testing includes an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram . A PSG is performed in a sleep laboratory under the direct supervision of a trained technologist. During the test, a variety of body functions, such as the electrical activity of the brain, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rate, breathing patterns, air flow, and blood oxygen levels are recorded at night during sleep. After the study is completed, the number of times breathing is impaired during sleep is tallied and the severity of the sleep apnea is graded.
    • For adults, a Home Sleep Test can sometimes be performed instead. This is a modified type of sleep study that can be done in the comfort of home. It records fewer body functions than PSG, including airflow, breathing effort, blood oxygen levels and snoring to confirm a diagnosis of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

    An HST is not appropriate to be used as a screening tool for patients without symptoms. Its not used for patients with significant medical problems . Its also not used for patients who have other sleep disorders in addition to the suspected obstructive sleep apnea.

    Sleep Apnea In People Of Different Age Groups

    How to tell if you have Sleep Apnea


    This condition is very common in children. Around 20% of children between the ages of two and five have it. Around 3% of kids aged six to ten do too.


    As you get older, your risk for sleep apnea rises. It can happen when you lie down and your tissues become more likely to collapse into your airway. This can cause breathing problems for anyone over 40 years old and especially those who are obese or overweight. If you snore loudly at night, it is important to talk with your doctor. They can check your oxygen level while you sleep using an overnight test.

    Pregnant Women

    Sleep apnea is also more common in pregnant women. This may be due to the added weight, changes in hormones, and increased congestion that come with pregnancy. If youre pregnant and snore loudly at night or have other symptoms of sleep apnea, let your doctor know. They can check your oxygen level during a sleep study.

    Old People

    People over the age of 65 are at a higher risk for sleep apnea because their muscles and tissues can relax more than they used to. This makes it easier for these tissues to block your airway while you sleep.

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    What Should Partners Look For

    One of the most common signs of sleep apnea is excessive snoring, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Other common symptoms of sleep apnea include having a headache in the morning or feeling tired immediately after waking up. People with sleep apnea tend to be overweight or obese and may have a large neck size, as well. One cardinal indication of sleep apnea, aside from snoring, is noticing momentary pauses in your partners breathing, where he or she may stop breathing for several seconds.

    The former partner of former NBA all-star Shaquille ONeal was quoted saying, Dude, you stopped breathing in your sleep prior to his sleep apnea diagnosis. You may be thinking, My husband stops breathing in his sleep, too. Wondering how to know if someone has sleep apnea? A sleep test is the only true way to determine if your partner has sleep apnea. A diagnostic test known formally as a polysomnography, a sleep study can be performed in a sleep lab or from the comforts of home with a home sleep test.

    Before talking with your partner, observe their sleep behaviors to help you decide if their snoring are cause for concern or an indication that your partner has sleep apnea. Men and women may present with differing symptoms.

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