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Recognizing and treating Sleep Apnea. Are you at risk for sleep apnea? Test your knowledge.

1. If you snore, it means you have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can couse loud snoring, but just because you snore doesn't mean you have sleep apnea. Some 45% of men and 30% of women snore regularly. Most cases are harmless. But anyone who snores nightly and has other symptoms - like pauses in breathing at night or daytime sleepiness- should talk to a doctor to rule out sleep apnea.
2. If you don't treat it, sleep apnea can raise your risk of:
Car accidents
All of the above
It's important to treat sleep apnea, and not just because of daytime sleepiness. When oxygen levels in the blood drop, your body responds by releasing stress hormones and partially waking you up - as many as 400 times a night. Over time, exposure to those hormones increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. The chronic exhaustion caused by sleep apnea increases the risk of depression. Daytime sleepiness is also a leading cause of car accidents.
3. Which activity may reduce daytime sleepiness caused by sleep apnea?
Tonsil flexes
Playing the didgeridoo
Flossing daily
One study found that practicing the Australian wind instrument called the didgeridoo - for about 25 minutes a day six days a week - improved sleep apnea symptoms like daytime sleepiness. Researchers speculated that playing the instrument strengthened the muscles around the airways, preventing them from collapsing during sleep.
4. Sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight. Why?
Extra weight can cause sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea may cause weight gain.
Obesity is clearly linked with the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. As fat builds up in the throat, it narrows the airways, making airway obstruction more likely. But it seems that sleep apnea itself - and the fragmented sleep it causes - triggers hormonal changes that make you hungrier and increase the risk of weight gain.
5. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP - continuous positive airway pressure - machine. How does it work?
Adjusts the angle of the spine during sleep
Uses electrical impulses to induce REM sleep
Blows air to keep the airways open during sleep
All of the above
CPAP uses a constant gentle stream of air through the nose to stop the airways from collapsing while you breathe. A small device with a fan pushes the air through a tube and facemask. Although CPAP can take some getting used to, it's worth the effort. CPAP can't cure sleep apnea – you have to keep using the machine - but it dramatically reduces the symptoms. It can also help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, health problems that are associated with sleep apnea.
6. The older you are, the more likely you are to have sleep apnea.
As you get older, the brain has a harder time keeping the muscles in the airways tight during sleep. During the night, they're more likely to sag, closing off the airways and momentarily cutting off the oxygen supply. Treating OSA is important because it's linked with other medical problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation. According to experts, at least one in 10 people over age 65 have sleep apnea.
7. When CPAP doesn't work to reduce symptoms, what's the No. 1 reason why?
Another health condition gets worse
The machine stops working
People stop using it
Breakthrough snoring
For the majority of people with sleep apnea, CPAP improves their symptoms and their sleep. But it only helps as long as you use it -- if you stop, symptoms come back. And according to studies, 50% of people give up on treatment within a year, most of them in the first month. Why? They don't give themselves a chance to get used to the treatment.
If your CPAP isn't working for you, don't give up. Talk to your doctor. If you're not using CPAP as recommended, talk to your doctor. There are different kinds of machines and masks, and you may be able to switch to one that you're more comfortable using
8. Which of these may help treat sleep apnea?
Sleeping on your side
Weight loss
All of the above
While CPAP is the standard treatment, losing weight if you are overweight often helps, too. Sleeping on your side may help, since airway collapse and obstruction tend to be worst when sleeping on your back. Some people prop themselves on their side using special pillows or wear something that makes sleeping on their backs uncomfortable. And there are devices you can wear in your mouth that push your jaw forward to help keep the airway open.
 For some people, having surgery to widen the airway may help. A surgeon might remove the tonsils or excess tissue from the back of the throat or stiffen the area by implanting a plastic insert.
9. How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
Blood test
Overnight sleep study
Physical examination
Although your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and will check your mouth, nose, and throat for excess tissue, the only definitive test for sleep apnea is an overnight sleep study. It can be done at a sleep clinic or sometimes at home using portable equipment. It doesn't hurt - a technician places sensors on your head, face, chest, arms, legs, and finger and records the information. Although people may worry they won't sleep during the test, most people sleep enough so that the technician gets the information that's needed.
10. You may be able to reduce mild sleep apnea symptoms by propping up the head of your bed
Putting blocks under the head of the bed to raise it 2 to 4 inches may help reduce symptoms for some people. Why? One of the reasons that the airways can close during sleep is that gravity pulls on the tissue in the throat as the muscles relax, causing it to droop. Sleeping on an incline reduces the effect of gravity, allowing the airways to stay open.
11. How can you make using a CPAP easier?
Get used to it by wearing the mask briefly during the day
Just use it on nights when you wake up
Only sleep on your back so the mask won't move
All of the above
It's important to wear your CPAP every night – if you don't, sleep apnea symptoms will return. But it's common to have trouble adjusting to your CPAP machine. Some things that can help are putting on the mask briefly when you are awake, doing relaxation exercises to help you fall asleep, using the "ramp" feature that slowly increases air pressure as you fall asleep, and using a saline nasal spray to prevent a stuffy nose. If your mask doesn't fit right, tell your doctor – there are many styles available.
12. Which of these can make sleep apnea worse?
Sleeping pills
All of the above
Explanation: Alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping medications all relax the muscles in the airways, making them prone to collapse and block the airway during sleep. Smokers are more than twice as likely to have sleep apnea as nonsmokers and former smokers. Smoking can irritate the airways and cause inflammation and fluid retention in the airways, making reduced airflow more likely. Another problem for smokers: as nicotine levels drop during sleep, the airway muscles start to go slack.
13. Who's usually the first to notice signs of sleep apnea?
The person who has it
Sleep specialist
Bed partner
Most often, it's the bed partner or other family member who first notices the signs of sleep apnea - like loud snoring, pauses in breathing, and gasping. Your doctor probably won't notice anything during a regular exam. And because sleep apnea signs happen while they're asleep, even people with severe sleep apnea might have no idea that they have symptoms.