One of the biggest dilemmas in my personal life is how to deal with friends or family members that I’m sure have obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome. Should I even mention this condition at all, outside of a professional relationship? Is it even ethical, not to mention practical, to give medical advice to close friends or family members?
Once your eyes are opened to how common sleep apnea is, you’ll see that almost every other one of your friends or family will have varying degrees of sleep apnea. Many more won’t have sleep apnea, but a lesser variation called upper airway resistance syndrome. As you get older, I guarantee that a significant number of your friends will have it. Sadly, only 10% of sleep apnea is ever diagnosed and treated by doctors, who instead tend to treat the complications of sleep apnea such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Ultimately, I’ve decided to take these situations on a case by case basis. Invariably, we’ll get on the discussion of what I do at work, and the topic of sleep apnea comes up. Depending on how interested he or she seems, I’ll gently suggest getting evaluated for it. I’ve had various responses to this approach. A number of my close friends have their lives changed radically after being diagnosed and treated for severe obstructive sleep apnea. Others who I know have severe sleep apnea either don’t take it too seriously, and continue their lives thinking that their fatigue, high blood pressure, and weight gain is just a normal part of getting older. In many cases, spouses of these people are frustrated because he or she won’t listen and go see a sleep specialist about this problem.
The other day, I ran into the wife of a couple that I know in my apartment complex. She relayed that her husband is sleeping much better since getting his CPAP machine and wanted to thank me for my advice. A few months before, the topic of her husband’s severe snoring came up during a conversation about what I did for a living.
As long as I can make a difference in my personal, as well as my professional life, I’m still going to do everything that I can to make people aware that sleep-breathing problems are a major cause of illness, fatigue, disability, and even death.
Have you reached out to your friends or family about sleep apnea? What was their response? Please respond with your comments below.