Sleep Apnea: What is it and how is it diagnosed

by | Last updated Nov 23, 2021

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Sleep affects us all. Whether we get too much, or too little, we depend on sleep to help keep us healthy and sane. But some of us may be in danger, and not even know it. Let’s dive deeper into what sleep apnea is, how it’s diagnosed, and how to treat it.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is defined as a partial or complete collapse of the upper airway during sleep.

When the muscles around the neck relax during sleep, it puts pressure of the airway and causes it to collapse. As it partially collapses, the air in and out causes a vibration noise against the airway.

This is otherwise known as snoring. Snoring is one of the biggest indicators that you may have sleep apnea.

The Difference Between Sleep Apnea & Hypopnea

As the airway further collapses, oxygen levels begin to drop. This is known as a hypopnea. Apnea occurs when the airway has a complete collapse, and airflow ceases for a few seconds.

In fact, most people who are diagnosed with sleep apnea actually have hypopneas.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

When these apnea or hypopnea events occur over and over during the night, causing you to awaken, you may not be aware this is happening.

Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • You feel sleepiness or fatigue during the day.
  • You suffer from anxiety or depression.
  • You snore.
  • You wake up with a dry mouth.

More important is that sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

How Sleep Apnea Increases Your Risk of Heart Disease

Who Is At Risk Of Sleep Apnea?

Some of us are more at risk of developing sleep apnea than others. Let’s take a look at the most common risk factors.

Sleep Apnea Risk #1 – Weight

Obesity and being overweight can cause sleep apnea. However, it’s a common misconception is that sleep apnea is a disorder of obesity, and this is simply not true.

Let’s be clear. Weight absolutely plays a role in sleep apnea, but it’s not the defining factor.

Sleep Apnea Risk #2 – Genetics

Anatomic narrowing of the airway is the biggest risk factor for sleep apnea. This may present as enlarged tonsils or tongue, small or recessed chin, thick neck or others. These findings are generally inherited so there is a significant genetic component to sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Risk #3 – Gender

Men are generally at a higher risk than women, though we know that women’s risk increases as they reach menopause.

Sleep Apnea Risk #4 – Age

Age is also a factor. As we age, the muscle tone throughout our body weakens, making us more susceptible to apnea.

However, young children may still have sleep apnea based on other factors.

Related: How Sleep Disorders in Children Can Create Future Health Problems

How To Diagnose Sleep Apnea

In order to make a diagnosis of sleep apnea, it’s necessary to complete a sleep study (polysomnography).

5 Important Signs You Need a Sleep Test

This is generally done in a sleep center. You’d come in during your normal bedtime. Electrodes would then be attached to you to monitor things like brain waves, heart rate and rhythm and oxygenation.

You’d awaken in the morning and be allowed to leave once the electrodes are removed.

Advancements in technology now allow a more convenient way to complete a sleep test from the comfort of your own home!

How to know if you should be tested and how to do it in the privacy and safety of your own home.

Get A Better Night’s Sleep

If you have one or multiple risk factors, and are experience symptoms of sleep apnea, we can help!

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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