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Thin and still have sleep apnea?
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Thin and still have sleep apnea?

Can you be thin and still have sleep apnea? I'm in my late 20's and am somewhat skinny, yet I wake up gasping for air several times a night. My doctor told me that it couldn't be sleep apnea because I'm not fat, but I don't understand what else can make someone wake up gasping for air at night. He said it's probably anxiety, but this doesn't make sense to me. Could anxiety make you stop breathing and wake up gasping at night?
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Avatar_dr_m_tn
Tavi33,

I couldn't have said it better myself. You can be young, thin, female, and not snore, and still have significant obstructive sleep apnea.
7 Comments
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Avatar_f_tn
Yes, you can be thin and suffer from apnea. I've had it for years (though only had an official diagnosis recently after a sleep study), unrelated to my weight (I only weighed 105 or so when it began and 115 now).  In my case it is tied w/a complex neck/thoracic neurovascular problem.

Don't let someone write it off as "anxiety"--or tell you you can't wake up knowing you stopped breathing.  I do frequently when my neck is bad--I can actually be sitting up in bed, starting to regain consciousness, and be aware that I'm not breathing.  Pretty creepy.  If I wake up fully in these instance, I have vertigo, turbulent blood flow and double vision if I open my eyes.  I also a hundred-something "arousals" in my sleep study that I was not aware of.

Do you have the symptoms of sleep deprivation that go along with sleep apnea (daytime drowsiness, falling asleep at "inappropriate" times and places, etc.)?  If so, you ought to push for a sleep study.  This sort of thing doesn't get better and the earlier you find out whether you have it, the less long-term impact it will have on your cardiovascular system and on your health in general.

Good luck, tavi33
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Avatar_m_tn
You can be thin and have sleep apnea...i'm currently 215 but have had sleep apnea at 170 pounds. ( I'm 5'11")  I have a pretty big overbite which my ENT says causes my airways to be very narrow to start with. I got on a cpap machine and now have had septoplasty, up3 and tongue reduction surgery. One thing I commonly encountered before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea is that the lack of good sleep itself led to anxiety.
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Avatar_n_tn
I forgot to mention before that there are some things that I think are related that none of the doctors think are... I wake up with mouthfuls of stomach acid at night (in addition to the apneas), and I have major sinus issues to include polyps, a deviated septum, a bunch of thickened diseased tissue, and enlarged tubinates. The sinus issues make it a little taxing to breathe during the daytime, let alone at night.
I do have a problem with falling asleep "inappropriately," and have actually gotten myself in small amounts of trouble a bunch of times over the years because of that. I met with a sleep specialist so that I can have a sleep study performed (since my pcp wan't very helpful). Oddly, he said that he thinks I don't have sleep apnea because I have a small neck, but since I am tired and fall asleep that I may have narcolepsy. I find that almost as odd as my pcp telling me it's anxiety. If it's narcolepsy, then what is causing my initial complaint? It's so strange that doctors seem to have the idea that "you have to be fat in order to have apnea."  In my opinion... just because I'm thin really does not make it ok to wake up unable to breathe over and over! Not a welcome experience no matter who you are. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of the sleep study in a couple of weeks. Hopefully it will give some sort of explaination to make me feel a little less crazy. Thanks for the support, I probably wouldn't have pushed for a sleep study without your feedback!
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi I am 58 and have had obstructive chronic sleep apnea for years but, diagnosed a year ago. I live in Canada and I have a physician that actually deals with sleep apnea.
He told me when I met him that they had only treated large people for sleep apnea and just didn't bother with everyone else. Which, was a fallacy.  He always says to me:" And look at you your tiny how come you have it?" Sometimes, he's so funny.
I've have acid reflux, really violent dreams, I got to the bathroom every hour and a 1/2
snore etc etc.  My son is 27 and I got checked because of him he was having night terrors.   He'd scare his wife half to death in the night acting out dreams and then, just laying down and going back to  sleep.  He wouldn't remember a thing in the morning.  We used to compete in the snoring department.  We both have high blood pressure and rapid heart beats. My son is like this whether he has weight on or not.
The scary part was driving. I drive an hour to work and sometimes I would not remember how I got there and it's not like when you zone out.  You really haven't got a clue. Now, I am on the bi-pap that doesn't happen. Good thing because there are not buses were I live.
I have been on a bi-pap for a year now. My air is quite high 18/12.  I am still exhausted but then, found out I had low iron so, I'm working on that now.
I tend to feel good for a few days and then be back into the exhaustion again. It can be very frustrating.  The big thing is I don't give into it I am very stubborn.
It can be hard when you work because I have this fear I will forget something or file wrong because my concentration is off.
I guess this information may not be of much help but, that your not alone.

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Avatar_n_tn
I got the results of my sleep study, and I figured I would give an update. I do, indeed, have sleep apnea! The results did not show narcolepsy. I will be getting my cpap machine shortly, and am hoping that things will be turning around for me once I get it. I am definately going to take great pleasure in seeing my pcp's face at my next visit. Maybe he will be more open to sleep issues with other patients now, and not just hand them something for "anxiety". It is sickening that so many patients are dismissed like this. Thanks again to you all for the support! Groups like this are sometimes the only link between pushing for the proper help, and just accepting the wrong diagnosis. :-D
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Avatar_f_tn
Check out cpap message boards like cpaptalk.com, apneasupport.org, sleepguide.com and sleepnet.com for additional help on getting used to cpap therapy
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