Nighttime is exhausting for the 22 million Americans with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder marked by frequent interruptions in breathing. OSA affects 1 in 15 adults.

Sleep is such a critical time for our bodies, and we often don’t realize how deprived we are. Sleeping well can protect your heart, reduce hypertension, help with depression, increase concentration, and make it easier to lose weight. It gives you the energy to do the things you enjoy.

Sleep apnea increases likelihood of serious health problems

People with untreated sleep apnea are at higher risk of an irregular heart rate, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, depression, memory loss, and low sex drive.

Predictive factors

The most common symptom of OSA is loud, chronic snoring. But OSA suffers often experience other symptoms.

What to look for

There are also anatomical characteristics common among people with sleep apnea.

  • Large neck circumference
  • Small or recessed chin
  • Large tongue
  • Overbite
  • Enlarged tonsils, uvula
  • Eroded enamel on your teeth

Renee Fitzhugh, RPSGT, owner of Practical Sleep Services, LLC, explained, “Based on my experience, one of the telltale signs of someone who has sleep apnea is their neck circumference. When the airway becomes narrowed by excess tissue, it is more likely to close off during sleep, causing obstructive sleep apnea.”

Your doctor or the sleep technician will often measure neck circumference since it can be as useful as height and weight to determine your risk of having breathing problems during sleep.

Get tested

Together, patient symptoms, predictive factors, and anatomical characteristics, may be evidence for suggesting the need for further evaluation.

If you suspect you have OSA, please schedule an office visit with your primary care provider to discuss symptoms and get a referral to the Sleep Disorders Center for evaluation. A home sleep test is often ordered first. If your results from that test are inconclusive or if your doctor suspects sleep problems, you might undergo further testing in the overnight sleep lab.

“The vast majority of patients, once treated, feel much better,” said Fitzhugh. “Don’t keep trying to cope with it.”

Knoxville Hospital & Clinics Sleep Disorders Center offers formal sleep studies and evaluation for persons suffering with OSA, narcolepsy, parasomnia, periodic limb movements, or seizures during sleep. The center is accredited by ACHC, a nationally recognized accrediting body for healthcare entities.

Comprehensive sleep evaluation and testing services are provided at the Knoxville Hospital & Clinics in Knoxville, making them convenient and easily accessible to patients, and eliminating the need to travel for care.

The information on this blog is provided for general information purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, treatment or evaluation; nor should it be used in diagnosing a health condition. You are encouraged to consult your health care provider if you or a family member has or suspect you have a medical problem.