woman sleeping in bed with her arm laying above her headA lack of information is one of the biggest barriers keeping people from sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment. When people don’t have good information, they go online for research and may encounter some common myths about sleep apnea that make them either not get diagnosed, not seek treatment, or not find the right treatment for them.

Here are 11 myths we often hear about sleep apnea, followed by the truth.

Sleep Apnea Is Rare

People often think sleep apnea is rare because they don’t know anyone diagnosed with the condition. That’s not surprising, but it doesn’t mean the condition is rare.

Estimates vary, but the American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that about 26% of adults aged 30 to 70 have sleep apnea. That’s more than one in four. Why does sleep apnea seem rare? Because most people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed. Perhaps 80-90% of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed.

Fortunately, this is changing. As more people are diagnosed with the condition, others recognize that the condition is common.

Sleep Apnea Isn’t Serious

Another common misconception is that sleep apnea isn’t serious. However, sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition. One early study found that people with moderate to severe sleep apnea were six times more likely to die than people without the condition. More recent estimates put that risk at four times more likely to die, but the conclusion is the same.

Mortal risks increased by sleep apnea include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Cancer
  • Car accidents
  • Suicide

As well as numerous other risks that impact your overall health and quality of life.

If I Don’t Snore, I Don’t Have Sleep Apnea

Snoring is one of the most common and recognizable symptoms of sleep apnea. However, not everyone who has sleep apnea is a snorer. In addition to central sleep apnea, when your brain stops telling your body to breathe, which is not associated with snoring, some people with obstructive sleep apnea don’t snore noticeably.

Watch for other symptoms of sleep apnea, such as:

  • Waking up tired no matter how long you spend in bed
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Falling asleep during the day
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Relying on caffeine to make it through the day
  • Depression or loss of interest
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating

If you have multiple other symptoms of sleep apnea, you should suspect it, even if you don’t snore.

Sleep Apnea Is Only a Problem for Men

While sleep apnea is more common in men, women can develop the condition, too. It’s hard to get reasonable estimates of the true prevalence of the condition among women since many women don’t admit to snoring and other related problems. Women may be up to 50% more likely to develop sleep apnea after menopause than before.

Sleep Apnea Only Affects Older and Overweight People

Although sleep apnea risk increases with age and with obesity, you don’t have to be old or overweight to have sleep apnea. It is possible to be young and fit and have sleep apnea because of your anatomy. Narrow airways and certain jaw alignments also contribute to sleep apnea risk.

Part of why women don’t admit to snoring and sleep apnea risk is because of the condition’s association with age and obesity. Don’t avoid a sleep test because you think that it will imply you are old or overweight.

Sleep Apnea Doesn’t Affect Children

The truth is that even children aren’t too young to have sleep apnea. The problem might be that their jaws have not fully developed. This leads to narrow airways that can become blocked.

If I Don’t Have Sleep Apnea, My Snoring Isn’t a Problem

Although sleep apnea is a serious risk associated with snoring, it’s not the only risk. If you snore, you are getting less than optimal airflow during sleep. This can reduce your sleep quality. Plus, there’s the problem your snoring poses for other people trying to sleep in the same room, apartment, or house. Finally, the vibrations associated with snoring can contribute to micro-injuries in your arteries. This can lead to hardened arteries, making snoring an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD).

My Doctor Will Recognize the Signs of Sleep Apnea

Doctors are trained to recognize many conditions, but they are liable to miss some. Sleep apnea occurs when you’re sleeping, so your doctor can’t observe it directly. They might not put together a few scattered symptoms to make the connection. If you suspect sleep apnea, you must ask about it to see what your doctor says.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Requires I Go to a Sleep Lab

man sleeping in bed, illuminated by blue light coming in the window
Many people suspect sleep apnea for years but don’t get tested because they think they need to go to a sleep lab to get a diagnosis. Since this is expensive and uncomfortable, they think they might rather cope with sleep apnea.

However, most people can get a sleep apnea diagnosis without going to a sleep lab. Inexpensive, convenient, and easy-to-use home sleep tests can likely work for you.

There Is Only One Way to Treat Sleep Apnea

Once diagnosed with sleep apnea, many people choose not to treat their condition. Or perhaps they start treatment but give up on it. That’s because their doctor likely prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). CPAP is a highly effective sleep apnea treatment, but it’s too uncomfortable or inconvenient for many people.

Fortunately, oral appliance therapy is a good CPAP alternative. It is comfortable and convenient, and it works as well as CPAP in most cases. In some instances, orofacial myofunctional therapy is also a good treatment, especially for children with sleep apnea.

Insurance Won’t Cover Oral Appliance Therapy

In the past, oral appliance therapy was considered an investigational treatment. However, science has confirmed that oral appliance therapy is effective. This means it’s a frontline treatment for mild or moderate sleep apnea and alternative treatment for severe sleep apnea—and your insurance will likely cover it when appropriate.

Get the Truth about Sleep Apnea in Fort Atkinson, WI

If you have more questions about sleep apnea, don’t just go to the internet for answers; ask an expert. Please call (920) 563-7323 or use our online contact form today to schedule an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford at Bite Align in Fort Atkinson, WI.