Once or twice a month, I have patients that are diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea (50 to 90 apneas per hour) and when told that it’s important to treat it, they are reluctant, saying that they’ll take care of it once school ends, or when they get vacation time. I even go as far as to tell them that insurance actuaries rank sleep apnea at the same level as cancer. In fact, a recent study showed that for untreated obstructive sleep apnea, your relative risk of dying from cancer is much higher than that for heart attack or stroke. Another study showed that your life expectancy is about 20 years shorter, and still another study showed that your risk of getting into a car accident is 15 time higher than normal.
There’s a lot of psychology involved when you’re dealing with obstructive sleep apnea. What are your stories that involve friends or family members? Is there a lot of denial or refusal to act when told they have severe obstructive sleep apnea?