Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep, which can lead to a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. While some people may be aware of their sleep apnea symptoms, others may not even realize they have the disorder. In this post, we’ll explore the question: Can you have sleep apnea without knowing?
What is Sleep Apnea?
Before we dive into the question at hand, let’s first define what sleep apnea is. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. These pauses, called apneas, can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or longer. They can occur dozens or even hundreds of times per night, disrupting your sleep and leading to a host of health problems.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is the much more common type and occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep. Congestion and inflammatory processes, like allergic rhinitis or chronic sinusitis, can worsen OSA symptoms as they create even less space for air to move through the airways. CSA is a less common type that occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Can You Have Sleep Apnea Without Knowing?
So, back to our original question: Can you have sleep apnea without knowing? The answer is yes. Many people with sleep apnea are not aware of their condition. In fact, studies have shown that up to 80% of people with sleep apnea go undiagnosed.
There are a few reasons why someone might have sleep apnea without knowing it. For one, the symptoms of sleep apnea can be subtle, easily overlooked, or mistaken for other conditions. Common symptoms include snoring, fatigue, and headaches upon waking. These symptoms may be attributed to other causes, such as stress or poor sleep habits, rather than sleep apnea.
Another reason why someone might have sleep apnea without knowing it is that the disorder can occur during the deepest stages of sleep. These stages are the hardest to remember, so a person with sleep apnea may not recall waking up during the night.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
While anyone can develop sleep apnea, there are certain risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing the disorder. Some of these risk factors include:
- Large neck circumference
- Male gender
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Alcohol and sedative use
- Chronic nasal congestion
If you have any of these risk factors and are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They may recommend a sleep study, which can help diagnose the disorder.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
The good news is that sleep apnea is treatable. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the disorder but may include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise, or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the underlying cause of the disorder.
Are Allergies Making Your Sleep Apnea Worse?
If you have sleep apnea and allergies, the inflammation caused by the allergic process could be making your sleep apnea symptoms worse. You can get expert treatment for your allergy symptoms at Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Associates of Tampa Bay. Give us a call at 813-971-9743 to schedule an appointment today at one of our two convenient Tampa Bay locations.