Many people snore and many snorers also have obstructive sleep apnea. Here are 5 common myths about these two conditions that many people, and even some doctors continue to perpetuate:

1. Sleep apnea occurs only in older, overweight, snoring men with big necks. Although the stereotypical description does fit people in the extreme end of the spectrum, we now know that even young, thin women that don't snore can have significant obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea begins with jaw structure narrowing, and later involves obesity. It's estimated that 90% of women with this condition are not diagnosed. Untreated, it can cause or aggravate weight gain, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

2. It's healthy to sleep on your back. For some people, sleeping on your back is ideal, but many people naturally prefer to sleep only on their sides or stomachs. They must sleep in this position for a good reason: Their tongues fall back due to gravity, and in deep sleep with added muscle relaxation, and they can stop breathing with frequent arousal. Dermatologists are telling female patients not to sleep on their stomachs, to prevent facial wrinkles. But this will actually worsen wrinkles, since you won't sleep well at all.

3. I know I don't snore, or I know I don't have apnea. I feel fine. There's no way of proving that you don't snore or don't have apneas (where you stop breathing while sleeping) without undergoing a sleep study. Even bedpartner's can't really tell. Most people do stop breathing once in a while. Also, if you don't snore, you may not be breathing either. There are people who stop breathing 50 to 70 times every hour and feel absolutely normal. But they're at increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

4. If I lose weight, I'll cure myself of sleep apnea. Sometimes. It's definitely worth trying, but in general, it's very difficult to lose weight if you have sleep apnea. This is because poor sleep aggravates weight gain as well as to increase your appetite. Once you're sleeping better, it'll be easier to lose weight. This is the one ingredient with many dietary and weight loss programs that's missing or not stressed at all. It's not enough just to tell people to sleep more.

5. Snoring comes from the nose, so if I unclog my nose, my snoring will stop. Having a stuffy nose can definitely aggravate snoring and sleep apnea, but in general, it's not the cause. A recent study showed that undergoing nasal surgery for breathing problems cured sleep apnea in only 10% of patients. Snoring vibrations typically come from the soft palate, which is aggravated by having a small jaw and the tongue falling back. It's a complicated relationship between the nose, the soft palate and the tongue.

The bottom line is, if you snore, you have a high chance of having undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. Even if one of the over the counter snore aids help somewhat, the snoring usually comes back. If you have any of the complications of untreated obstructive sleep apnea (such as depression, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, obesity or frequent urination), there's even more reason to get checked.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Y. Park, M.D., author of Sleep, Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired. Get your free report on "The Truth About Obstructive Sleep Apnea Surgery" at