It’s entirely likely that you have sleep apnea. As a matter of fact, sleep apnea affects up to 18 million Americans, with estimates that an additional 10 million Americans have it and just don’t know it. Sleep apnea is a potentially fatal condition, carrying risks of high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke. What does all of this mean? It means you should probably get yourself to a sleep center to get checked for potential sleep apnea, just ask Shaquille O’Neal.
Known by most people as just Shaq, the basketball superstar is a larger than life figure who seems impervious to harm, but the truth is that Shaq was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea. At the behest of his girlfriend, Nikki “Hoopz” Alexander, who noticed that the big man would often cease breathing during his sleep, Shaq underwent a polysomnograph that found that he suffered from moderate sleep apnea. Sleep Apnea is measured on a scale known as the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) which differentiates the severity of sleep apnea in individuals. Essentially, the scale measures the number of pauses in breathing an individual has over the course of a night’s sleep. Shaq’s diagnosis of moderate sleep apnea means that he completely or partially stopped breathing between 15 and 30 times. Any number between 5 and 15 is considered mild, while a value above 30 is severe sleep apnea.
There are a number of treatments for sleep apnea, both surgical and non-surgical. Oftentimes, an individual can treat sleep apnea through a combination of factors including weight loss, quitting smoking, and using a nasal decongestant. If these are ineffective, doctors will likely provide you with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask. A stream of air flowing from the mask will help keep your airways open, thereby alleviating sleep apnea. This is exactly the kind of treatment given to Shaq to treat his moderate sleep apnea.
If an individual is able to become accustomed to sleeping with the mask on, it’s virtually 100% effective. There’s an immense benefit to Shaq becoming a spokesperson for sleep apnea, as it will likely spur people to be tested for the disorder. The 10 million individuals that are unaware of their sleep apnea are in a potentially fatal position with the many associated heart risks. If you happen to share a room with a family member or a spouse be sure that they’re aware of the signs of sleep apnea. If they notice you continually snoring, not breathing for 10 seconds or more, gasping for air at night, or exhibiting signs of excessive daytime sleepiness, it’s likely you have obstructive sleep apnea. The risks associated with sleep apnea are absolutely preventable as long as you diagnose and treat sleep apnea early enough. Shaq was fortunate to catch on to his disorder before it severely affected him. Make sure sleep apnea doesn’t get the best of you either.
REM Sleep Labs is an accredited sleep testing center with Sleep Centers in Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Diego.