We often picture a heavyset man over 40 with a thick neck and a window-rattling snore when we think about the typical sleep apnea sufferer. This image often fits the profile of a sleep apnea patient, however, it doesn’t represent a complete picture of the demographic of all sleep apnea sufferers.

Contrary to popular belief, sleep apnea patients come in all shapes, sizes, races, genders and can even have symptoms atypical to those common for sleep apnea. For instance, not all sleep apnea sufferers snore, many are not obese or even overweight, and not all of them are male. Sleep apnea is prevalent in women as well as men and they are often under-diagnosed and under-served by the medical community.

Loud, persistent snoring is the most recognizable sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form of this condition. Women have a different breathing pattern than men, so while it’s certainly possible for women to snore, they may be more likely to present other symptoms of sleep apnea, such as:

  • Difficulty sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Fibromyalgia

Many of these symptoms may not seem like they are connected to sleep problems at first glance so it’s easy to miss the connect. If you have noticed any of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to get tested for sleep apnea. Around half of the people with condition are not aware of it and as a result, it goes untreated.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which someone has moments where they stop breathing when they sleep. Not breathing is a bad thing obviously, so your body will wake you up long enough to take a breath or two. This can occur dozens of times every hour, and that can prevent you from getting the restful sleep that you need. As a result, you can feel sleep deprived, and you may experience frequent daytime sleepiness. This can lead to difficulty focusing on a specific task and an increased risk of accidents, including driving accidents. Likewise, the breathing stoppages mean your body is fighting to keep you alive throughout the night. That can lead to higher blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines remain the most common treatment for sleep apnea. Unfortunately, they only work if you actually use them. For some people, CPAP machines create new issues. The mask can be uncomfortable and even irritating. The sound of the machine itself may make it difficult to fall asleep. And since the machine needs electricity, this can limit its effectiveness. Fortunately, you also have the option of getting an oral appliance that you can wear while you sleep. You could think of this as a special kind of mouth guard. It works by slightly adjusting the position of your jaw. This helps to keep your airways open so you can continue breathing throughout the night. That allows you to sleep longer and deeper so you get the rest and rejuvenation that comes from healthy sleep.

If you suspect that you or someone you love may have sleep apnea, contact our office at (562) 434-6414 to schedule a visit.