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OSA: Talking about Sleep Apnea

family hands

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is highly prevalent and costs the health system about $400 million annually. Watching out for the warning signs and confirming a diagnosis (or knowing you are in the clear) is the key to staying healthy.

This Sleep Awareness Week, we have made it our mission to increase awareness of sleep apnea and as members of the sleep apnea community, you are in the best position to look out for your family and friends. Talking to a loved one about sleep apnea can be difficult but having the conversation could mean a better night’s sleep for everyone.  

Here are 5 tips on talking to your family about sleep apnea:

Understanding their symptoms

Having experienced the symptoms yourself, you would know what to look out for:

  • Daytime sleepiness 
  • Loud snoring 
  • Restless sleep
  • Lack of alertness and concentration 
  • General depressed mood

Approach the situation with empathy. Hearing that you may have a sleep disorder can be distressing and they may react negatively or deny the symptoms. In this case it is best to keep a journal of their symptoms and talk to them about it after a week. 

Show them they are not alone

Instead of presenting the disorder as an annoyance, show them your support. You can bring up some of the following facts on OSA.

  • 71% of adults aged 40-85 have mild OSA 
  • 36.1% of adults have moderate OSA 
  • Majority are undiagnosed and untreated   
  • Symptoms are often treated, while the underlying cause remains untreated
    E.g.daytime sleepiness can be overcome with caffeine, loud snoring can be overcome with small anti-snore devices. 

Getting the right sleep apnea treatment is the most relevant long term solution that will combat the root of the problem. (not just mask symptoms). 

Let them see for themselves

If they are still in denial encourage them to see a video of themselves sleeping. Many OSA sufferers, toss and turn multiple times through the night and gasp for air without their knowledge. Watching themselves do this is disconcerting and will send them to a medical professional in no time.

Discuss financial and time concerns

Today a lot of decisions are made based on financial ability and the bottom line. It’s important to explain the consequences of not getting treatment. Left untreated, OSA may lead to other long term medical conditions. If they are diagnosed spend some time researching the different options for treatment discussed by their doctor.

Encourage therapy compliance

If they are diagnosed and CPAP therapy has been chosen, encourage them to persevere with therapy. It is important for them to get the right device, therapy and comfort setting for themselves. The pace at which they see results will vary for different individuals. Some may see results in as little as days, others may take up to 4 weeks. To get an accurate idea on how well the therapy is working for them, most medical professionals suggest taking an average of at least 28 days.

And that's it! Having that first conversation is difficult but they can start by taking this survey created by the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia.

References

Motamedi, K., McClary, A., & Amedee, R. (2009). Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Growing Problem. The Ochsner Journal, 9(3), 149–153.
Senaratna, C., Perret, J., Lodge, C., Lowe, A., Campbell, B., & Matheson, M. et al. (2017). Prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in the general population: A systematic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 34, 70-81. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2016.07.002