Don’t think for a second that the typical patient with sleep apnea is a fat man with a thick neck.
Skinny young women can be diagnosed with this often misdiagnosed and very common condition.
In fact, it’s estimated that 25 percent of the population has obstructive sleep apnea, and that millions of people go through life having no idea that they have this condition.
Its symptoms, such as morning headaches, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and having to use the toilet several times overnight are often passed off as symptoms of other conditions such as stress and age.
Obstructive sleep apnea is strongly linked to serious illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
In addition, “People with sleep apnea are more likely to develop insulin resistance even if not overweight,” says Daniel Rifkin, MD, a sleep medicine expert at the Sleep Medicine Centers of Western New York.
“With this condition, cells don’t respond as well to the hormone insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
“Sleep apnea can cause decreased oxygen to the optic nerve, which can result in nerve damage.” This can then lead to glaucoma.
“Sleep apnea has been linked to fatty liver disease,” continues Dr. Rifkin. “The severity of the liver disease often corresponds with the severity of the sleep apnea.
“A lot goes on in the brain during sleep. One of those things is the consolidation of memories. With apnea-interrupted sleep, you may have memory problems.”
Learn More About Obstructive Sleep Apnea by Visiting the Articles Below – in Plain English
All About the “Masks”
- Safety of CPAP machines
- Can sometimes CPAP use still be effective?
- If you have no daytime symptoms do you still need CPAP?
- CPAP’s effect on lowering risk of heart damage
- Why can’t supplemental oxygen alone treat OSA?
- Taking an occasional night off from CPAP
- Preventing mold in the CPAP humidifier
- Still feeling exhausted despite CPAP therapy?
- Can you be too old to benefit from CPAP?
Crushing the Myths
- Definition of mild sleep apnea
- Can mild OSA increase mortality?
- Is mild but untreated OSA dangerous?
- Frequent bathroom trips are highly suggestive of OSA
- Trying to convince yourself that your overnight active bladder is caused by anxiety rather than sleep apnea?
Polysomnography (sleep study for diagnosis)
- What to do if you don’t have insurance
- Can a sleep study miss OSA?
- Can a finger oxygen reader alone detect OSA?
Scourge of Untreated OSA
- OSA gasp vs. LPR gasp
- OSA without daytime symptoms
- When sleep apnea occurs only when falling asleep
- Why aren’t light sleepers constantly awakened by apnea events?
- Sleep apnea headache vs. brain tumor headache
What You Thought You Knew…
- You know you might have OSA when…
- How to tell you might have OSA
- Why it seems so many people are getting diagnosed with sleep apnea
- Number of people with OSA
- What the typical sleep apnea patient looks like
Dr. Rifkin is board certified in both neurology and sleep medicine. He also treats insomnia, RLS and narcolepsy.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.