Sleep Apnea Victims Don’t Know They Have It

Sleep apnea may affect over six percent of the working population, and 78 percent of the victims don’t know they have it, according to a new study of over 4,200 workers at Philips Electronics in the Netherlands. Philips and a research team from the Netherlands University of Twente worked together to identify just how often workers are victimized by the commonest form of sleep apnea, an intermittent blockage in the upper airways while sleeping that’s called Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS).

The US National Institutes of Health said that the surprisingly serious condition often slips by without being diagnosed because, after all, you’re awake when you visit the doctor’s office. However, if you live with anybody else, you should pay attention if they complain that you snore. When you try to breathe through the blockage, it can cause extremely loud and disruptive snoring as your body struggles to catch its breath. And that’s the first sign of a problem.

Sleep apnea can affect anyone, but WebMD said your risk is higher if you’re male, overweight, over age 40, or have sinus problems, in addition to several other factors. And it does more than just annoy any potential bed partners, since untreated sleep apnea can progress to serious conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

Sometimes you even snore loudly enough to wake yourself up. Ouch. Because of the switchover to daylight savings time on Sunday, sleep loss is in the news — and we’re learning that it can be deadly. Death rates actually rise a bit each year after we “spring ahead” an hour, probably as a result of workplace and automobile accidents caused by losing that precious hour of sleep.

A recent study even suggested that prolonged sleep loss could be related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Considering how loudly OSAS victims can snore in their fight for breath, it may seem surprising that 78 percent of sleep apnea sufferers don’t know they have it. If someone says you snore, it might be time to wake up and smell the coffee.

[photo courtesy Roman Bonnefoy and Wikipedia Commons]