Learning you have sleep apnea is definitely tough on you, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight that a sleep apnea diagnosis can also mean some significant changes and challenges for your family, especially a spouse or partner. Because this diagnosis also necessitates some very specific treatment options, there are a few things that you should be sure to discuss with your loved ones if you think you may have sleep apnea or you’ve been given a sleep apnea diagnosis.
Explain What Sleep Apnea Is and What It Means
A lot of the fear and anxiety surrounding sleep apnea is due to a lack of information. Many who receive a sleep apnea diagnosis may not even fully understand the disorder, much less their loved ones. Whether you are preparing to undergo a sleep study or have recently been diagnosed, take time to explain the condition to your family and friends.
Let them know that sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing several times an hour while sleeping. When you sleep, the muscles in the chest and throat relax and can cause obstructions that prevent necessary airflow. This can cause extreme snoring, choking, headaches, excessive dry mouth, and can even lead to much more serious conditions like high blood pressure or stroke. Review the condition thoroughly with your physician and be sure to have a candid, honest conversation with your loved ones.
Introduce the Topic At the Right Time
Many find discussing their sleep apnea to be extremely difficult because they believe it can be embarrassing to reveal their condition to others. This concern is only exaggerated when you attempt to discuss your condition with a romantic partner. When you do decide to reveal your sleep apnea to your loved ones, make sure they know that this is going to be a serious conversation and that you are nervous to open up to them.
Note that many will discourage you from bringing this up at particularly vulnerable times, like a first date or a large family gathering. It’s much easier to discuss your diagnosis with those closest to you or those who you know may be most affected by your sleep apnea—often because they live with you.
Discuss Your Treatment Options With Them
Any medical diagnosis can be overwhelming, but a necessary second step is to also review all of your treatment options. Sleep apnea has several treatment methods ranging from external medical devices to oral appliances and even surgery. The most common and most effective treatment option is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine worn on the face during sleep. Many who use a CPAP machine fear that it will negatively impact their family, particularly their partners, or cause problems with intimacy.
Many of these fears are unfounded as CPAP machines have evolved to cause minimal, if any, noise while ensuring that you get a better, more effective night’s sleep. Getting better sleep is shown to improve mood, health, and can lead to more fulfilling intimacy and emotional connectedness. Because your sleep apnea treatment is likely to impact your loved ones in some way, it’s important to make them feel as though they are a part of the solution.
Make Sure They Know You Need Their Support
While informative conversations about sleep apnea and treatment options are valuable and necessary, it’s also important to convey your feelings about this diagnosis to your loved ones. There is no real cure for sleep apnea, so this will likely be a condition you manage for the rest of your life. One way to approach this conversation is to outline the benefits this will have for them while also featuring the ways in which you hope to experience their support.
Sleep apnea is known to increase your chances of several very serious medical conditions like stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Sharing this information with your loved ones will help show them that treating your sleep apnea is in both your best interests and theirs. If you choose CPAP or AutoPAP therapy, let them know that you are hoping to adapt to this new device quickly and that their encouragement will help you embrace this treatment method, giving you the sleep you need to live a better, fuller life.
There is no easy way to discuss your sleep apnea diagnosis with your family, but taking these four thoughts into consideration can help you approach this conversation in a way that ensures your long-term success. While there is no cure for sleep apnea, when treated properly, you can minimize or even remove your risk for serious medical conditions and get back to spending more time with your loved ones.