May 2, 2013
“My husband snores, but I never see him stop breathing or gasp for air, so I’m sure he doesn’t have sleep apnea”
I’m afraid bed partners are ill-suited to be airway diagnosticians, regardless of their sincerity. There are reasons for this, of course, so allow me to explain.
First, audible gasps and breathing pauses are not the only manifestations of sleep apnea. In fact, there is a condition known as silent apnea, where snoring does not even exist.
Secondly, many bed partners (and I am not saying you do this) will nudge their partner when they are snoring, urging them to move to a side sleeping position where the snoring is not so irritating. This will also lessen the likelihood of apneic episodes, but as soon as the non-snoring partner goes to sleep, the snorer might roll onto their back and succumb to a collapsed airway caused by gravitational forces.
Finally, unless you are awake, watching him sleep all night long, there are many phases of sleep staging, and some are more prone to causing sleep disordered breathing. The most common would be REM sleep, as he is essentially paralyzed during vivid dream action (for obvious reasons). The majority of REM sleep occurs during the latter third of the night, so if you primarily watch or listen during the first hour or so, he is not likely to get into any REM sleep at all!
I hope this helps you understand why it is so important that your husband gets a sleep study, so that we can rule in or out the existence of sleep apnea. You could very well save his life by urging him to seek a diagnosis of his sleeping condition.