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Thomas Honl column: Most common sleep misconceptions debunked

8:00 PM, Mar. 22, 2013  |  Comments
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We spend about one-third of our lives asleep. It seems, therefore, important to know if we are sleeping well. We should be aware of the signs and symptoms of common sleep issues, and have the resources we need to get screened, tested and treated if necessary. Although some sleep issues are merely inconvenient, others disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), can lead to serious medical issues and can, over time, become life threatening.

Having the right information could save your life! Here are some of the most common misconceptions that I have encountered:

? "All this concern about sleep apnea is a new gimmick." Actually, obstructive sleep apnea was first recognized centuries ago. The first widespread treatment for OSA was a tracheostomy, surgically cutting an opening in the neck to bypass the airway blockage. Of course today, treatments such as C-pap and oral appliance therapy are less invasive and very effective.

? "I sleep fine. I don't have a problem." Maybe you do and maybe you don't. You can measure the amount of sleep you are getting, but it is difficult to determine how well you are sleeping ... because you are asleep. A better indicator of your sleep "quality" is a firsthand report from your bed partner. And a test, such as a home sleep test (HST) is the only way to know for sure.

? "I never sleep!" You may have the impression that you never sleep because your sleep is interrupted or you simply never feel rested. The truth is you literally cannot survive without sleep. Hence, we don't thrive without good sleep.

? "I just snore." Snoring can be an indication of a more serious health problem such as OSA. Snoring not only increases your risk of stroke, it can take a toll on your marriage. Properly treated patients have more energy, better health and happier bed partners. Recent studies show that snorers with sleep apnea who underwent treatment reported improved sex lives!

? "I can't/won't wear C-Pap so there's no treatment for me." There are options for patients who are C-Pap intolerant. Oral appliances are an effective treatment for mild to moderate apnea. In severe cases, oral appliances can be used in combination with C-Pap to make it more comfortable, or prescribed for patients who are claustrophobic and cannot wear C-Pap.

? "My physician or dentist never said anything about sleep apnea." The science of sleep medicine is relatively new. Your physician may have received very little education about sleep and how it impacts your health. For the latest information and proper screening, visit a sleep physician or a properly trained dentist. Any dentist can fit an oral appliance, however, few have gone to the lengths necessary to obtain the education and experience needed to provide you with the necessary care.

Ultimately, it is up to each of us to become aware of the impact of obstructive sleep apnea on our health and our quality of life. Call to get screened and tested today.

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