Risks of Sleep Apnea: Since discovering a human’s ability to sleep, the importance and benefits of getting good quality rest are known worldwide. We know that not getting enough sleep can lead to higher stress levels, more health problems, and even behavior issues like depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). With these risks in mind, it is still difficult for many people to get enough rest every night. This article will highlight some of the many risks associated with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder linked to several health problems.
The Many Risks of Sleep Apnea
1. Increased Chance of Heart Disease
Sleep apnea is categorized as a chronic sleep disorder that disturbs the normal breathing process found in people during their sleep. Symptoms of this disorder include trouble breathing, snoring, gasping, waking up briefly with choking episodes, and more. When episodes of not breathing properly are frequent enough, it can lead to heart problems. Sleep apnea often occurs in obese people and can cause them to have a lower life expectancy than those without the disorder. Weight gain and obesity are also common in people with sleep apnea.
Many types of heart disease and stroke can be linked to sleep apnea. As the amount of oxygen removed from the blood while sleeping rises, the body’s arteries become stiffer and narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow through them. This narrowing damage to the body puts at risk the heart’s ability to circulate blood. The increased blood pressure present during sleep is also linked to stroke, as is the hardening of the arteries, which can also lead to heart attacks. Another potentially deadly health complication caused by sleep apnea is high blood pressure after waking up. Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure after being awakened.
2. Increased Risk of Stroke
Sleep apnea is known to interfere with cardiovascular health. When individuals cannot breathe properly consistently, they often experience high blood pressure. This can cause the arteries that provide blood flow to the brain to narrow, deadly if it increases significantly. People with sleep apnea are at an increased risk of stroke.
A stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain become blocked, causing a lack of oxygen to reach the brain. This type of event can lead to a range of life-threatening complications, including paralysis and death. A stroke that occurs during sleep may come to be known as a sleep-related event.
3. Causes high blood pressure
Disturbed sleep caused by sleep apnea often leads to high blood pressure, especially in women. The more severe the disorder, the worse the blood pressure tends to be. Rapid breathing that raises and lowers a person’s heart rate and blood pressure is common in individuals with sleep apnea. Blood vessel damage can occur due to blood pressure fluctuations during sleep.
High blood pressure can cause damage to the body’s extremities, including the vital organs. Over time, this can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems.
Sleep apnea patients are also susceptible to high blood pressure immediately after waking up. The brain needs time to adjust after being deprived of oxygen for an extended period during sleep. This makes it hard for an individual with sleep apnea to wake up in the morning until they have settled into REM sleep. When this happens, the brain needs time to recover and is in a more stable state.
4. Increased Risk of Diabetes
The effects of sleep apnea are not just limited to heart health, as other organs are also affected. When the body is deprived of oxygen for extended periods, the pancreas gets forced to work harder to produce more insulin. If this goes on for too long, it can lead to diabetes. Sleep apnea increases the risk that an individual will develop Type 2 diabetes due to its interference with normal blood glucose levels. Sleep apnea can also lead to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, characterized by high blood pressure, cholesterol, and other factors. The increased risk for diabetes and other metabolic syndrome conditions get linked to the development of sleep apnea and sleepiness during the day.
5. Increased Risk of Dementia
Sleep apnea is also linked to memory loss and dementia. The brain does not have enough oxygen during sleep, leading to a host of serious health problems. The higher the number of sleep apnea episodes, the more likely someone will experience memory loss and dementia. Sleep apnea has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease as well.
6. Weight-Related Health Problems
Several weight-related health issues are associated with sleep apnea, including obesity and difficulty losing weight. When people are overweight, it often leads to sleep apnea. It is more common in men than women, but more obese women are affected by the disorder versus their male counterparts. While sleep apnea is not directly associated with weight gain or obesity, it can contribute to them or cause them if left untreated. A vicious cycle of weight gain and sleep apnea gets created when the condition goes untreated for a long time. This is because the weight gain makes it harder to breathe properly while sleeping, which leads to a higher risk of sleep apnea episodes.
7. Dental Problems
Sleep apnea can lead to several dental problems, including tooth decay and chronic dry mouth. Prolonged breathing issues due to sleep apnea can cause sleep bruxism, the grinding of teeth while asleep.
8. Aging and Skin Appearance
The aging process can be sped up by sleep apnea. When the body gets less oxygen, the skin and internal organs do not receive the nutrients needed to function properly. This can affect how fast or slow age-related tissue changes occur.
9. Affects Men and Women Differently
It seems like sleep apnea is mainly a male health concern, as women are less likely to be affected by the disorder. However, this is not necessarily true. Sleep apnea can affect both men and women differently; men may have the same frequency of the disorder as women and experience some of the same problems that they cause. Men and women who sleep on their backs or sides tend to experience more sleep apnea than those who sleep on their stomachs. Women tend to have a lower incidence of sleep apnea, but this does not mean that they are less affected by it.
Effective treatments for sleep apnea are available. With the proper treatment, people with sleep apnea can lead normal lives despite waking up each morning in a state of waking disorientation.