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Left Breathless: Dealing with Sleep Apnea

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

You probably don't think much about how you breathe when you sleep, but it's time to wake up and pay attention!

Sleep apnea is generally described by an obstructed breathing that prevents your body from getting the right amount of oxygen when you sleep. 

And here's the scary part: an estimated 25% of Americans have some form of sleep apnea, but 80% goes undiagnosed! So, let's say approximately 1000 people read this email every week, that means about 200 of you have sleep apnea without even knowing. 

I'm not going to go into all of the technical details... but for the next few minutes, I want to give you the risk factors, next steps, and long term solutions so you can be empowered to make smart decisions moving forward. 

Take a few minutes to answer the following questions:

1) Do you snore? (Not sure, ask your wife, she'll tell you!)

2) Do you feel tired during the day, even though you are sleeping sufficient hours at night?

3) Do you gasp for air or choke while sleeping?

4) Do you have high blood pressure?

5) Are you male (sorry fella's, this is a risk factor)

6) Are you over 50?

7) Is your BMI over 28 (overweight)?

8) Is your neck over 17 inches in circumference? (I mean, doesn't everyone know their neck size?)

If you answered yes to more than a couple of those, you might want to consider getting checked out for apnea by making an appointment for a sleep study in a sleep clinic.

But I don't want to go for a sleep study and I definitely don't want to wear a CPAP machine!

I know, I hear you, most people aren't tickled by the idea of sleeping overnight in a medical clinic, or terribly excited about the CPAP machine they might be shackled to going forward.

(A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is a device that goes over your nose and/or mouth while you sleep that makes sure you have the right amount of oxygen)

OK, here's my suggestions:

1) Knowledge is power. You're much better off knowing you have or don't have apnea than just living in the dark. Long term apnea can cause heart attack, stroke, diabetes, exhaustion... Find out what's going on and then at least you can make an educated decision. 

2) Getting a sleep test in a professional sleep clinic is best, but if you aren't ready to go that far, you can ask for a home sleep test, or order one online yourself. That can at least be a screening to see if you need to move forward. There is also a lot of new technology you can use at home that can monitor your sleep patterns and oxygen levels to see if there is a potential issue.  Some options include the fitbit, apple watch, and sleep rings, my personal favorite, the sleepon ring.

3) CPAP machines are getting more comfortable, less invasive and quieter. That being said, there are CPAP alternatives to try, including methods to keep you on your side, weight loss, diet change, supplements, breathing techniques, etc. Definitely speak to you doctor and reach out if you wanted to discuss some alternative techniques or you can't quite fall asleep with your CPAP strapped on. 

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