Chronic, habitual snoring may be a nuisance, but it happens to be one of the most common symptoms of a medical condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If left untreated OSA can lead to serious medical conditions, decreased quality of life, and even a shortened life.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing is obstructed causing struggles or blockages in breathing eventually resulting in oxygen dips in the blood, brain and other organs. These oxygen dipping events can happen dozens of times every hour the person is sleeping and can easily go undetected.
Sleep disruptions occur throughout the night as the body struggles to increase blood oxygen levels. For some the sleep disruptions lead to frequent awakenings that may result in poor sleep quality and even insomnia.
Untreated apnea can lead to a host of medical and quality of life issues. Some of these include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Increased chance or heart attack and strokes
- Excessive tiredness during the day
- Lack of concentration efforts
- Morning headaches
- Weight gain
- Irritability and personality changes
- Erectile dysfunction
- and much more….
For some obstructive sleep apnea sufferer, they are plagued with many of the symptoms listed above. But for others, they may not experience any of these listed symptoms, but often snore.
Over the years of treating snoring and apnea patients, I have found in many cases no direct correlation to how severe a person’s apnea diagnosis is to the quality or quantity of noticeable symptoms. In other words, a person with mild OSA may be struggling with symptoms such as poor sleep quality, unrefreshed sleep and overall just not feeling like themselves. And on the flip-side, often I see patients with severe apnea that are having very few symptoms if any and are shocked to find out that they indeed have apnea.
Similar to a diabetic that needs to know what level of diabetes he/she has in order to discover best treatment option, a snoring individual should know if apnea events are occurring during sleep. For this reason it is important that individuals who frequently snore get medically evaluated to find out the source of their snoring.
Snoring can also be caused by other medical issues other than apnea. Other reasons for snoring may include allergies, blocked nasal passages, soft tissue masses and more. A medical evaluation can help rule out causes for your snoring other than apnea.
So where do I start on evaluating my snoring?
I recommend following the medical guidelines set by trained medical professionals in sleep medicine published through the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Both of these organizations stress the importance of being medically evaluated by a physician, preferably one with specialized training in sleep disorders, before getting treatment for snoring.
The best place to start your snoring discussion is by visiting your primary care physician. From there you may be referred directly to a sleep testing facility or to a sleep physician for further guidance and evaluation.
If you would like to know more about non-primary care medical providers to consult with, read :
Where do I find a Sleep Trained Physician or Testing Center Near Me?
The best place to start your search for a sleep trained physician or a sleep testing facility is to ask your primary care doctor for a referral.
If you need to look directly for a testing center try http://www.sleepeducation.org/find-a-facility
Most patients who have obstructive sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. Recent research estimates that up to 26% of adults may have obstructive sleep apnea. You may be one of them. To get the best health services and to resolve your snoring dilemmas, a medical evaluation is strongly advised.
Will I need a sleep test to know if I a have apnea?
Medical providers well-versed in the dangers of snoring will prescribe a sleep test for a thorough diagnosis. A sleep test will confirm whether you have apnea, ’benign’ snoring without apnea events or a different sleep breathing disorder.
There are several types of sleep-snoring evaluation processes to test if you have apnea.
The most accurate and “gold standard” sleep evaluation testing is called a polysomnography, or PSG for short. During a PSG you stay overnight in a “hotel-like” room in a sleep lab. the patient is attached to sensors to various body parts. Sensors monitor brain wave activity, breathing, body position and blood oxygen levels.
Home testing for obstructive sleep apnea is becoming more common for a variety of reasons. Although home testing is not nearly as accurate and encompassing as home testing, it is a good option for many individuals, especially those without many other medical problems.
If you have had family complaints from snoring, or you self-awaken from snoring or gasping, start a discussion with your primary care physician. Obstructive sleep apnea is a life-altering and shortening medical condition and should not be taken lightly.