You could suffer from sleep apnea without even knowing it — or even knowing what sleep apnea is. Right now, an estimated two to four percent of Americans suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea; this means that one in 50 individuals are undiagnosed. For those who don’t yet know what sleep apnea is, the condition refers to interrupted breathing during sleep. While it ranges in severity, this essentially means that those with sleep apnea are actually experiencing halts in their breathing patterns while unconscious. They actually aren’t breathing — often without knowing it. Sleep apnea can result in a number of long-term health issues, including heart problems, which can eventually lead to death. In fact, sleep apnea sufferers are three times as likely to suffer from heart disease as other people. Sleep apnea must be taken seriously; and luckily, there are treatments that can help lower the amount of stress that it puts on the body, including BIPAP masks and CPAP masks, among other things. While it may seem simple enough — and perhaps even easier — to continue living as you were prior to your sleep apnea diagnosis, it shouldn’t be ignored and the more proactive you are about treatment, the healthier you’ll be. Furthermore, if you suspect that you could be suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, talk to your doctor immediately. Below, we’ll look into the prevalence of sleep apnea, what contributes to it, and how we can treat it.
Who Suffers From Sleep Apnea?
One of the reasons why sleep apnea — despite its prevalence — is relatively unknown among the general population is because so many people don’t even realize that it affects them. An estimated 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with the typical sufferer of the issue experiencing up to 60 apneas per night. Yet lots of people who have sleep apnea don’t use BIPAP masks or CPAP machines, and don’t even realize that they can use them. Some dismiss apneas that they are aware of as simple interruptions in their sleep, not realizing that they actually aren’t breathing during their apneas and could very well die due to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea often affects senior citizens more than younger people, but anyone could potentially suffer from sleep apnea. Obesity is often a contributing factor to sleep apnea, though it’s hardly the only one. Right now, the problem is twice as common for men as it is for women, but there really isn’t a single “type” of person who suffers from sleep apnea.
What Can Sleep Apnea Cause?
Again, any extended interruption of breathing — which is what sleep apnea does — can potentially cause serious harm to the body, or even death. But heart disease, as mentioned before, is a serious illness that often coincides with sleep apnea. Indeed, about 38,000 cardiovascular-related deaths on an annual basis are connected to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea sufferers also are more likely to suffer from strokes — the risk of stroke for a person with undiagnosed sleep apnea is four times higher than it is for people who aren’t afflicted. Asthma, while not caused by sleep apnea, often goes along with the illness, with asthma patients showing a 40% increased risk for sleep apnea compared to those without sleep apnea. So — if sleep apnea is so harmful, what can we do to treat it?
How Can We Treat Sleep Apnea?
The best way to treat sleep apnea is through BIPAP masks and CPAP machines. A BIPAP mask isn’t that different from a CPAP machine, though you should of course follow your doctor’s recommendation on what is best for you. BIPAP stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, and like CPAP machines, it helps people with sleep apnea breathe more regularly. But a CPAP machine gives a continuous stream of air; a BIPAP machine alternates between two pressures, one meant for inhalation, one meant for exhalation. This is great for people who have difficulty breathing against CPAP machines. No matter what option you choose, it’s important to have one if you suffer from sleep apnea.