Are you here right now reading my post because 1. you suspect you have sleep apnea, 2. you’ve recently been diagnosed with it, 3. you’ve had it for a long time or 4. you know someone else who has sleep apnea? Let me know your answer in the comments area at the bottom of this post. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea back in 2021, although I suspect that I’ve had it for many years, perhaps 10-15 years that I know of.
I’m here to share my experience, treatment, etc in hopes that by sharing my information, I might help someone else who is also dealing with this. You can read my previous post here. I might even have a little extra information and experience to share because my husband also has sleep apnea. Mine was diagnosed as mild and his was diagnosed as severe.
People seem to think that sleep apnea occurs only in overweight men. That is the farthest from the truth. It can occur in children, women and people who aren’t overweight. In fact, every time my pulmonologist walks into the exam room to see me for my checkups, the first thing he says to me is, “Oh, you’re not what my typical patient looks like”. I think he forgets me since I only go to follow up appointments once per year now.
Sleep apnea is a condition often associated with middle-aged individuals and those who snore loudly. It might surprise you with its ability to affect a diverse range of people. While it’s true that certain demographics are more prone to this disorder, sleep apnea can strike anyone, even those who don’t fit the stereotypical image. In this blog post, we’ll explore the unexpected individuals who can be diagnosed with sleep apnea and shed light on the importance of awareness, early detection, and treatment.
1. Athletes and Sleep Apnea: A Surprising Connection It’s not uncommon for athletes, who are usually in top physical shape, to be diagnosed with sleep apnea. Factors like rigorous training schedules, high-altitude environments, and genetics can contribute to the development of sleep apnea. In some cases, the pressure to maintain peak performance might lead athletes to ignore warning signs, causing potential health risks in the long run.
2. Slim Individuals and the Hidden Struggle Contrary to popular belief, sleep apnea is not exclusive to individuals who are overweight. Slim individuals can also suffer from this condition due to factors like genetics, narrow airways, or even certain medical conditions. The misconception that only those with excess weight are affected can delay diagnosis and treatment for those who may not fit the traditional profile. I’m a prime example of this.
3. Youth Isn’t an Immunity While sleep apnea is often thought of as an ailment of age, it’s important to recognize that young people can also be impacted. Pediatric sleep apnea, often related to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, can affect children and adolescents. Additionally, young adults might experience sleep apnea due to factors like poor sleep habits, alcohol or drug use, and obesity.
4. The Gender Spectrum and Sleep Apnea Sleep apnea isn’t biased when it comes to gender. Although it’s more commonly diagnosed in men, women of all ages can experience sleep apnea as well. Hormonal changes, pregnancy, and menopause can influence sleep patterns and contribute to sleep apnea in women. Recognizing this, regardless of gender, is essential for early intervention. Lucky for me, a cardiologist that I went to for some weird symptoms that I was having insisted that I be tested for sleep apnea.
5. The Role of Genetics and Family History Family history and genetics play a significant role in sleep apnea. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you might be at a higher risk. It’s crucial for individuals with a family history to be aware of the signs and symptoms, even if they don’t fit the typical criteria. My own parents didn’t have sleep apnea, although I suspect that my dad may have had it and was never diagnosed.
Sleep apnea is a complex disorder that can affect a wide range of individuals and its reach is far and wide. Understanding the diverse factors that contribute to sleep apnea and raising awareness about its unexpected manifestations are crucial steps towards ensuring that everyone, regardless of their appearance or lifestyle, receives the care they need. If you suspect you or someone you know might have sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare professional – after all, a good night’s sleep is something we all deserve.
Symptoms to be aware of that may indicate that a person has sleep apnea:
- Loud Snoring: Intense and consistent snoring, often accompanied by pauses, gasps, or choking sounds during sleep.
- Episodes of Paused Breathing: Witnesses may observe the person stopping breathing momentarily during sleep, followed by a sudden gasping or choking noise as they resume breathing.
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Despite getting what seems like adequate sleep, individuals with sleep apnea often experience extreme drowsiness during the day, leading to difficulty staying awake and focused.
- Morning Headaches: Frequent headaches upon waking can be a result of disrupted sleep caused by sleep apnea.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and decreased cognitive function are common in individuals with untreated sleep apnea.
- Irritability and Mood Changes: Sleep apnea can lead to mood swings, irritability, and even depression due to the disruption of normal sleep patterns.
- Frequent Nighttime Urination: Some people with sleep apnea may experience increased nighttime urination due to changes in hormone regulation caused by sleep disruptions.
- Dry Mouth or Sore Throat: Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat can be indicative of breathing through the mouth, which may happen when airways are obstructed.
- Restless Sleep: Individuals with sleep apnea may shift positions frequently during the night as their body attempts to open blocked airways.
- Obesity and Large Neck Circumference: While sleep apnea can affect anyone, it is more common in individuals who are overweight or obese. A larger neck circumference can also be a risk factor as it may narrow the airway.
It’s important to note that these signs and symptoms can vary in severity and may not necessarily mean a person has sleep apnea. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s recommended to consult a medical professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. A sleep study, which can be conducted in a sleep clinic or at home, is often used to definitively diagnose sleep apnea.
I will continue this discussion in future posts here on my blog. Future discussions will be the treatments that I have used and others that are available. Stay tuned and let me know if you have any questions or comments to add.