No woman wants to be told she sounds like a Mack truck when she sleeps, but for many of us, snoring is more than just an embarrassing habit. If you snore regularly, then it’s time to give serious thought to having a sleep apnea test. Why? It may save your life. And now it’s easier than ever to get tested.
About 80% of people with sleep apnea—a condition where you repeatedly stop breathing while you’re sleeping, resulting in less oxygen to the brain—don’t know they have it. And according to a growing body of research, sleep apnea can result in an increased risk of serious medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, dementia, and depression.
Loud snoring, choking or gasping for air in your sleep, and suffering from morning headaches or daytime sleepiness are symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea – a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that affects up to one in four men and one in 10 women (including many who are overweight). Besides affecting your quality of sleep, apnea can trigger the release of stress hormones that elevate heart rate and raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Problem is, fewer than 15 percent of apnea sufferers know they have the disorder. If you fail to mention your symptoms to your doctors, they may not ask about it during your routine exams. An overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram can determine if you have it, and allow you to start treatment.
Despite tell-tale symptoms—like snoring, waking up with a sore throat, and daytime sleepiness—most people don’t get tested because they don’t want to have to spend the night at a sleep center, says Michael Coppola, MD, president and chief medical officer of the American Sleep Apnea Association. “It can be unnerving, and a large percentage of people don’t sleep very well when they’re attached to wires and in an unfamiliar setting,” he says.
The good news: There are a number of at-home sleep apnea tests your doctor can prescribe for you. Instead of being hooked up to tons of wires, most at-home tests only require a couple of sensors. And the results may be even more accurate than a lab test, says Coppola, since you’re more comfortable in your own bed and more apt to sleep like you normally would.
Plus, it may not cost you anything. “A vast majority of insurance companies cover it,” says Coppola. And the savings to your health? Priceless.