Health Risks of Sleep Apnea
While snoring may not seem like a serious matter unless it’s keeping a partner awake, snoring and its cousin, sleep apnea, can be a serious, even life-threatening disease. A disease that affects the way you breathe during sleep, sleep apnea can interrupt or even stop breathing several times a night — up to hundreds, in some cases. Here are some of the ways in which sleep apnea can cause dangers to your health and well-being.
Some of the most immediate health risks of sleep apnea come from the lack of proper, restorative sleep. Sleep apnea can interrupt your sleep many times a night, robbing you of the deep sleep you need to remain productive and alert. Lost sleep can lead to carelessness, inattentive behavior, and even something as serious as a car or workplace accident.
Having sleep apnea can actually increase the chances of a heart attack or stroke during the night. Low oxygen or stress caused by repeated wakings or obstruction of airflow can disrupt the regulation of blood flow to your brain and circulatory system, potentially creating a heart attack or stroke scenario. Sleep apnea can also cause long-term strain on the heart – waking up several times a night from sleep apnea can trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, leading to elevated heart rate and high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure already, obstructive sleep apnea (in which the sleeper’s airway is momentarily blocked during snoring) can make it worse. Waking up several times a night due to sleep apnea can trigger hormones that cause blood pressure to rise during the night. The restriction of the airway can also aggravate hypertension.
Being overweight and having sleep apnea can actually create a self-fulfilling cycle of health problems. Being overweight can cause fatty deposits to build up in the neck, which in turn can disrupt breathing and cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also interferes with the body’s endocrine system, possibly increasing production of ghrelin, a hormone released by the endocrine system. Ghrelin makes people crave carbohydrates and sweets, the consumption of which can lead to further weight gain and a vicious cycle. Some studies have even shown a possible connection between sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes.
While sleep apnea has not been proven to make adult asthma worse, studies have shown that getting treatment for sleep apnea may result in fewer asthma attacks in adults.
Sleep apnea can also exacerbate other health issues like depression, ADHD, and other mood disorders, in addition to causing difficulty and even misery in the sufferer’s daily life.
Sleep apnea is a disease that can strike anyone at any age. Risk factors include being overweight, having a family history of sleep apnea, Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), or problems with airflow in the nasal cavities due to a deviated septum, sinus problems, or allergies.
If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, contact the Central California Sleep Center to discuss possible treatment options. There are a variety of home treatments, and even home tests, which can determine whether or not you suffer from sleep apnea.