It is estimated that over 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea: a sleep disorder where you repeatedly stop breathing throughout the night. When your brain senses that you have stopped breathing, it then triggers you to wake up. A person with sleep apnea, can wake up anywhere from 5 to over 100 times per hour during any given night. Importantly, these arousals last for such a short amount of time that, most likely, you will never remember waking up at all.
The dangers of untreated sleep apnea
This is when sleep apnea becomes serious. Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea has been linked with a number of devastating medical conditions. 80% of people suffering from OSA are still undiagnosed, that’s 20 million people out of the 25 million Americans who have it.
Why is this common disorder so under-diagnosed?
Well, it is partially due to the fact that those apneic episodes throughout the night happen without you realizing. The other reason is that the symptoms are incredibly broad, and sleep apnea can easily seem like another disorder or problem. Beyond bedtime symptoms, someone with sleep apnea may struggle with depression, fatigue, trouble with concentration, a dry mouth, a sore throat, frequent urination, nighttime heartburn, and many other symptoms. It isn’t always easy to trace these symptoms back to sleep apnea. For this reason, it is incredibly important to get a sleep test to help diagnose the cause.
Getting tested and treated has never been easier
Treating your undiagnosed sleep apnea can greatly increase your quality of life. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have this disorder, getting tested and treated has never been easier than with our newly designed application called Ognomy. Ognomy is a telemedicine platform reimagined to make it easier for both the patient and doctor. Schedule your appointments, get tested, track your progress, and talk to a board certified sleep-medicine practitioner all from your phone. It is truly a doctors office in the palm of your hand. It handles all the paperwork, insurance, everything. Better sleep is just one click away.
What exactly are the dangers of untreated sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea has been linked to a number of serious health conditions and may even cause premature death. It does not just affect your sleep! Let’s get into the specifics.
High blood pressure
Sleep apnea increases your risk of high blood pressure. In fact, it is one of the common causes of high blood pressure—also known as hypertension. The dangers of hypertension include kidney disease, heart disease, and many more.
High blood pressure can in turn lead to cardiovascular disease. However, sleep apnea alone, and independent of high blood pressure, is associated with cardiovascular disease.
Sleep apnea makes you more likely to have atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm. This can increase your risk of stroke. Furthermore, as noted above with hypertension, independent of atrial fibrillation, sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke and is seen in 69% of patients that have suffered with stroke.
Type 2 diabetes
People with sleep apnea are more likely to develop insulin resistance even if not overweight. With this condition, cells don’t respond as well to the hormone insulin, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Sleep apnea can cause decreased oxygen to the optic nerve, which can result in nerve damage.
Sleep apnea has been linked to gestational diabetes, gestational high blood pressure, and preeclampsia.
Sleep apnea deprives your body of oxygen while you sleep. This can worsen symptoms of asthma. You may find yourself having trouble breathing.
Sleep apnea has been linked to fatty liver disease. The severity of the liver disease often corresponds with the severity of the sleep apnea.
People with sleep apnea are more likely to be depressed than the regular population. Luckily, treating the sleep apnea can help cure the depression in time.
A lot goes on in the brain during sleep. One of those things is the consolidation of memories. With apnea interrupted sleep, you may have memory problems.
People with acid reflux often complain of sleep disorders. Heartburn may be a symptom of sleep apnea.
Weakened immune system
Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system through sleep deprivation,
Decreased sexual desire
Sleep apnea may alter your sexual desire. It also may cause erectile dysfunction in men.
People with sleep apnea are more likely to have high LDL cholesterol levels. This heightened “bad” cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
Repeatedly waking up during the night disrupts your sleep. You may think you are sleeping long enough, but the quality of your sleep may be poor given the severity of your apnea.
Low blood oxygen level
Waking up repeatedly during the night can deprive your body of the oxygen you need. Some reports say that your blood oxygen level can be comparable to climbing Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.
The list goes on
This list is not exhaustive. As you can see, untreated sleep apnea can cause all sorts of secondary health issues, and shouldn’t be ignored. If you think you or a loved one may have this disorder, do not hesitate to get treatment.