An alarming number of children and athletes have sleep apnea risk.
We all sleep. The quality of sleep affects every aspect of our life. What would your day be like if you had an extra hour of sleep? How do you think children would act with an extra hour of sleep? Sleep affects adult work performance and children’s learning ability in school. Lack of sleep accounts for about 83,000 car crashes every year (NHTSA, n.d.) Sleep disorders are linked to a wide variety of health conditions from depression to high blood pressure to increasing the risk of Parkinson’s disease (NIH, 2011). Sleep even affects the cost we pay for life insurance.
By increasing your quality of sleep, you can give yourself that feeling of extra sleep and improve your future health. Common thought is that we all need about seven hours of sleep per night, some people can get along with less, and children need more. A quick look at some of the reasons people don’t sleep or do not sleep well can help you understand how to get better rest and improve your life. Three areas affect sleep:
- Physical – what is going on inside the body affects sleep.
- Mental – how a person thinks does have an impact on sleep.
- Environmental – sound, temperature, lighting, smell, and touch affect sleep.
The details of these three areas are the subjects of extensive studies that continue to develop every day. Let’s look a little deeper at the physical aspect of sleep. If you improve what is going on inside your body, your sleep will improve. One of the most prevalent physical conditions that affect men and women is sleep apnea. Suffers from sleep apnea pause or stop breathing while sleeping. The pause in breathing can range from seconds to minutes. The condition is not limited by age; sleep apnea occurs in infants, children, and adults.
There are several types of sleep apnea however obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. With this condition, “the airway repeatedly becomes blocked, limiting the amount of air that reaches your lungs” (AASM, n.d.). Obstructive sleep apnea sufferers are often loud snorers and wake up frequently gasping for air. I have obstructive sleep apnea and in the first sleep study I had done, I woke up over 100 times. I never consciously knew this was happening, I only knew that I was always tired.
The first time I met someone that had sleep apnea, it was a middle-aged friend that was overweight. I thought to myself, thank goodness that is not me. I am not overweight, and I would never use one of those machines with a mask at night. Oh, how cruel time can be. I still don’t consider myself overweight, but according to the Body Mass Index or BMI, I am overweight. However, the validity of the BMI is a topic for another day.
What led up to my sleep apnea diagnosis seemed to be typical for sleep apnea sufferers: I snored loudly, my wife told me that I would stop snoring then suddenly gasp for air, and I was tired all the time. I could sleep for eight or nine hours and still be tired. By that time, learning to adjust to wearing a sleep mask seemed to be a small price to pay if I could get back that fresh feeling of a good night sleep.
Most people accept the importance of sleep. The prevalence of sleep apnea has grown for two reasons. First, Americans are getting less sleep. “In 2005, the National Sleep Foundation stated that 16% of Americans say they sleep less than six hours a night, compared with 12% in 1998” (UCLA, 2016). The second reason there seems to be more people with sleep apnea is there are more professionals and facilities to help identify and treat all those sleepy people. Since its establishment in 1975, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine or “AASM has expanded membership to over 11,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals” (AASM, About, 2016).
From its initial diagnosis in 1981, sleep apnea has been a disease that is associated with overweight middle-aged men (Sullivan, Issa, Berthon-Jones, and Eves, 1981). Through extensive research, an alarming number of children and athletes have been identified to have the similar symptoms of the typical sleep apnea suffer. The recognized trend in tiredness and the identification of cognitive impairments such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD has led sleep scientist to connect sleep apnea to as many as 25% of children that have ADHD (ASAA, 2016). Additionally, many athletes in the NFL, NBA, and MLB have been identified with sleep apnea (George, Kab, & Levy, 2003; MacMullan, 2016; Russell, 2016).
Most recently, Texas Ranger’s first baseman, Prince Fielder disclosed his struggles with sleep apnea, and in 2015 Cleveland Indian’s Mike Napoli had surgery to cope with sleep apnea (Russell, 2016). Dr. Andrea Natale, a cardiologist, and consultant for the NBA, points out that because of their size, NBA players have a “genetic predisposition, [of] being overweight, sleep apnea and hypertension” (MacMullan,2016).
There are many reasons children can have sleep apnea. They may have enlarged adenoids, swollen tonsils or they just may be large children. If your child is having trouble breathing while they sleep, talk to your pediatrician. It may be sleep apnea, or it may be:
- Another sleep disorder
- A medical condition
- Medication use
- A mental health disorder
- Substance abuse (AASM, Children,2016)
Symptoms of a sleep disorder in children may not be the same as in adults. As previously mentioned studies have indicated that as many as 25% of children with ADHD do show sleep disorder symptoms. The first step to proper control of a child’s sleep disorder is guidance from your doctor.
For adults and children, the key to living with sleep apnea is early detection and after a diagnosis proactive management. If you think that you have a sleep disorder, I cannot say it enough, the first place to go is your doctor. After talking with my doctor about always feeling tired and loud snoring, his recommendation was to have a sleep study. Treatment of sleep disorders can offer some relief with other health conditions. In my case, after the sleep study, not only did I feel more rested, but over time, it helped me control my blood pressure and lose weight. I began managing my sleep apnea by using a continuous positive airway pressure machine or CPAP machine. The sleep lab I went to helped me with the fit and ongoing maintenance. Your doctor can best help you determine a solution for your sleep problem.
Your doctor will probably recommend a sleep lab for your test. I did not go with my doctor’s recommendation at first. I thought I’d try to find a cheaper alternative closer to my home. It was like a cheap motel and a bad experience. I had to have the test redone and went with my doctor’s recommendations. The second location was much better. It was quieter; each room had a private restroom and the staff seemed to understand what needed to be done much better.
If you have questions about finding a sleep lab, here are a few things to keep in mind. Ask if the sleep clinic has accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine? The standards that the AASM requires of members seems to make a difference. To me, it seems to be the gold standard of sleep labs. Check to see if the sleep clinic you are considering is in your health insurance network, it will make a big difference in cost. Ask if they offer patient education, follow-ups as well as on-going monitoring. Also a point I felt was very important, will they allow you to visit their clinic.
About every three to six months you will need to replace part of your CPAP machine. It makes a difference in fit and hygiene. A leaky mask will allow you to snore and you lose the benefits of the CPAP machine. If you are using a dental appliance, regularly check with your dentist.
Losing weight can help you to manage your sleep apnea too. Talk to your family members. If they notice you snoring through the mask or still continuing to gasp for air as you sleep, contact your sleep technician for further help.
For many people, having a sleep disorder does affect the ability to obtain life insurance. I have addressed the growing problem of children who have sleep disorders. In addressing life insurance, this is not an encouragement to get life insurance for a child. People do not need to have a significant amount of life insurance on their children. There is no reason. However, a small amount of life insurance is always a prudent step. In most cases, this can be easily and cheaply accomplished by adding what is called a rider on to an adult life insurance policy.
For those who are looking for life insurance, finding a life insurance company that is willing to consider active sleep disorder management as a positive attribute in considering you for a life insurance policy is important. There are life insurance companies that will look at your sleep disorder as an incurable disease and will deny you a life insurance policy. It is important to avoid a denial if at all possible because when you apply for other life or disability insurance, there will be a question that asks if you have ever been declined coverage for any reason. If you have to answer, yes that can cause a problem with the application. You do not want to lie; you want to avoid having the insurance denial altogether.
The best way to prevent a denial is to submit an informal inquiry. An informal inquiry is where we take all of your health history information and anonymously submit that to several life insurance companies. Without disclosing who you are the life insurance companies will look at your circumstance and tell us if they are willing to consider a person with your health history. Also, they will say what they expect the cost will be. You can take advantage of the best offer that is made. This process gets you the best life insurance policy at the best possible price without having to bounce between life insurance companies. It is also the best way to avoid a denial for sleep apnea. Could you still be denied? Yes. This is not a foolproof process. However, if we can completely answer all of the questions up front and there are no unexpected circumstances, it is your best chance. It is the best process because you are getting the benefit of shopping many different life insurance companies at the same time.
If you have health concerns, you will need guidance in the application process. I have been helping customers find life insurance coverage to protect their families for twenty-eight years. I’d be honored to begin helping you. The best way to begin is by completing the quote request form on our website, or you can call, email or text too.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (n.d.). Sleep apnea overview and facts – sleep education. Retrieved from http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/sleep-apnea
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2016). About the AASM. Retrieved from http://www.aasmnet.org/aboutaasm.aspx
American Sleep Apnea Association. (2016). Children’s sleep apnea. Retrieved from http://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/childrens-sleep-apnea.html
George, C. F., Kab, V., & Levy, A. M. (2003). Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing among professional football players. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(4), 367-368. doi:10.1056/nejm200301233480422
MacMullan, J. (2016, February 29). Larry bird will die young. just ask him. ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/14712117/larry-bird-believes-nba-big-men-die-young-right
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Research on drowsy driving. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Drowsy+Driving
National Institutes of Health. (2011). 2011 nhi sleep disorders research plan (NIH Publication No. 11-7820). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/resources/sleep/201101011NationalSleepDisordersResearchPlanDHHSPublication11-7820.pdf
Russell, J. (2016, March 11). Rangers slugger prince fielder diagnosed with ‘extreme’ sleep apnea. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/03/11/rangers-slugger-prince-fielder-disagnosed-with-extreme-sleep-apnea/
Sullivan CE, Issa FG, Berthon-Jones M, Eves L (April 1981). Reversal of obstructive sleep apnoea by continuous positive airway pressure applied through the nares. Lancet 1 (8225): 862–5. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(81)92140-1.
UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. (2016). Sleep medicine growth and trends. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from http://sleepcenter.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=37