Defining Sleep Apnea
If you’re unfamiliar with sleep apnea, it’s a common sleep disorder that affects more than 18 million Americans. Sleep apnea prompts an obstruction in your airway, causing you to stop breathing several times while sleeping.
Most patients suffering from sleep apnea often experience restless nights, excessive snoring, cognitive issues, and more. Sleep specialists like Dr. Stephen Ura recommend undergoing a proper sleep test to get the right diagnosis for your condition.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to some serious consequences. Learn several ways how sleep apnea can put your life at risk.
1. Insomnia & Daytime Fatigue
Sleep apnea can cause insomnia, or cause you to wake up during the night, which may result in extreme exhaustion. In fact, fatigue is the leading cause of deadly traffic and railroad crashes, with sleep apnea being at the wheel of this issue.
Each time you stop breathing, your brain sends out a signal to wake up and gasp for air. It’s common to wake up frequently during the night and have no memory of it. Waking up for just a few seconds can disrupt your sleep cycle and make you feel fatigued the next morning.
Truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea are up to five times more likely to cause serious, preventable crashes. This sleep disorder can also take a toll on your everyday life including your jobs and relationships, as you won’t have energy to complete even the simplest tasks.
2. Moodiness, Irritability, or Depression
A side effect of persistent fatigue is its effect on your mood and overall mental health. Sleep apnea has a direct link to anxiety and depression. Waking up repeatedly during the night, even if you have no memory of it, can have many adverse effects on your body.
Aside from depression, you can also be susceptible to extreme mood swings and get easily irritated at the simplest things. The combination of the two goes hand in hand with a constant state of exhaustion. This often leads to loss of energy and a feeling of hopelessness.
3. Serious Health Issues
Sleep apnea has been connected to a series of life threatening health concerns, such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
High blood pressure is one of the most common signs associated with sleep apnea, especially with an older demographic. When combined with other symptoms on this list, it could be a sign of a tumor developing in the pancreas.
If you have sleep apnea, oxygen is depreciated from your body when you stop breathing during sleep. Unfortunately, it can occur both during the day and throughout the night.
4. Loss of Brain Function
Between loss of oxygen and perpetual fatigue, it’s normal to lose some of your brain function. Maintaining REM sleep is necessary to stay focused and alert during the day. Without it, it’s likely you’ll become very forgetful and have difficulty concentrating.
Research shows that people who treated their sleep apnea with a CPAP machine were diagnosed with memory and reasoning problems years later than those who didn’t treat their sleep disorder. Sleep specialists like Dr. John Nosti provide comfortable oral appliances as an alternative to bulky, uncomfortable CPAPs.
5. Sleep-Related Accidents
People with sleep apnea are more likely to fall asleep at any time and in any place. This can result in serious consequences while driving or performing attention-oriented everyday tasks.
An accident like falling asleep while riding a bike can result in a chipped or damaged tooth. In these cases, dentists like Dr. Timothy Kosinski can repair your tooth with restoration solutions such as single, multi-tooth or full arch replacements.
Drivers with untreated sleep apnea are more than twice as likely to take part in a traffic accident than people without the disorder. Keep in mind, about 80 percent of people with sleep apnea are unaware they have it–meaning there’s a high probability of danger on the road.
Tips for Sleep Apnea Sufferers
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that requires a proper diagnosis and treatment to alleviate or eliminate symptoms. However, there are some easy lifestyle changes that can help you manage your disorder, such as:
- Lose weight to minimize the number of sleep disruptions each night.
- Exercise more makes you more tired and helps you sleep better.
- Change positions and try to avoid sleeping on your back–it’ll help keep your airway open.
- Avoid caffeine several hours before going to bed.
- Minimize distractions in the bedroom–don’t watch TV in bed or use your phone.
- Set a consistent sleep schedule so your body gets used to waking up and going to bed at the same time each day.
Implementing the right treatment and making lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health–and may even save your life. If you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing restless nights, it’s important to contact your health provider and seek a sleep study. It’s the first step to getting a better night’s rest.