Snoring can potentially signal a more serious condition-obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of upper airway collapse during sleep, causing a cessation of airflow in the presence of breathing effort. The red flags of sleep apnea include the “3 S ’s”: S noring, S leepiness, and a S ignificant-other reporting episodes where the patient has stopped breathing during sleep. Despite being a common disease, OSA is underrecognized by most primary care physicians in the United States, and an estimated 80% of Americans who have OSA are not yet diagnosed. Often, patients are unaware that they have OSA and may in fact regard themselves as “good sleepers” because they “can sleep anytime, anywhere” (ie, in the physician’s waiting room, in traffic, in class, at his or her office). That is why discussing the symptoms with a bed partner can be helpful, as he or she may give a more accurate account of the patient’s sleep behaviors. OSA is a very important diagnosis to screen for because of its strong association with debilitating medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and, not uncommonly, sleepiness-related accidents. So, although most snoring generally may be viewed as innocuous, it may not be. If you are diagnosed with OSA, there are a number of effective treatments that could result in a better night’s sleep for you and your husband.
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