Risks of Sleep Apnea

Disorders associated with Sleep Apnea

Left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious short and long term risks including:

Gastric reflux or acid reflux with indigestion - When OSA occurs, changes in pressure within the diaphragm and the chest cavity make conditions favorable for acid reflux. Approximately 60% of patients with OSA also experience reflux problems.

Stroke - Stoke is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is associated with an increased risk of stroke in middle-aged and older adults, especially men, and there is a three times greater risk of stroke among patients with moderate sleep apnea when left untreated.

Diabetes - Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be very harmful to a person’s health. It is estimated that 86% of people with Type 2 diabetes have OSA, as the frequent drops in blood oxygen level can trigger the release of stress hormones. These hormones raise a person’s heart rate and increase their chances for stroke, high blood pressure, or cardiac arrhythmia. The hormones can also have effect on blood glucose metabolism, setting the stage for Type 2 diabetes.

Heart Disease - There is a strong link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, heart arrhythmia, and cardiovascular disease.

Obesity - Obstructive Sleep Apnea is associated with obesity in more than 60% of cases and is a major risk factor for the development and progression of OSA. Excess body weight contributes to sleep apnea by causing increased pressure on the upper airways leading to collapse and decreased neuromuscular control from the fatty deposits. These fatty deposits contribute to decrease lung volume and make it more difficult to breathe.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety - Lack of regular quality sleep can affect not only your physical health, but it can have a big impact on your mental health as well. In one study of nearly 19,000 people, those with Obstructive Sleep Apnea were five times as likely to suffer from clinical depression. Researchers believe this is because when sleep is repeatedly disrupted, it can alter brain activity and neurochemicals that affect a person's mood and thinking.

Grinding of teeth during sleep (Bruxism) - Bruxism is a condition in which you unconsciously grind or gnash your teeth and clench your jaw. Not only does this cause damage to your teeth and affect your oral health, but it can also lead to sleep and health disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea. Many are unaware they have bruxism because it occurs while they're asleep or performing stressful or mindless tasks, so it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms to prevent further complications.

Risks and Causes

Excess weight - In many cases a person's body weight can be directly linked to having Obstructive Sleep Apnea. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have sleep apnea than those that maintain a healthy weight. Sleep Apnea can often be caused by excess fatty tissues that become built up in the neck and throat, which can lead to restrictions in airflow as the upper respiratory system's pathway is narrowed or pinched off during sleep. If your neck circumference is greater than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women you have a higher risk of sleep apnea.

Middle Age - Though Sleep Apnea can occur at any age, it is more common between young adulthood and middle age. As people age, their muscles begin to lose muscle tone, which includes the muscles in the throat. As the muscles in the throat grow weaker, they are more likely to collapse into the airways during sleep.

Frequent Alcohol Use - Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the body, which includes the throat muscles as well. This may relax the throat to the point of blocking the airway during sleep.

Smoking - The smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco are irritants to the upper airway and may cause inflammation. This may reduce the space to the airway during sleep. Smokers have a three times more increased risk of developing OSA than nonsmokers.

Driving and work-related incidents - Excessive sleepiness can make you less effective at work and even at risk of harm in your everyday life. It can cloud your thinking and cause you to react slower or make more errors. In the year 2000, 800,000 U.S. drivers were involved in sleep apnea related traffic incidents.