Obstructive sleep apnea can be a silent killer. It is a disease that is often not diagnosed properly for a long time and can have some serious side effects that can effect the quality of our lives. Sleep apnea is caused by the muscles in your throat relaxing too much and closing, preventing air from entering your lungs, hence the use of “obstructive” in the name of the disorder.
There is a rarer form of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea. This is only found in approximately 5% of all sleep apnea cases. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the proper signals to open and close your airways while you are sleeping.
Complications Of Sleep Apnea
-Cardiac Issues / High Blood Pressure. Sleep apnea patients will experience a sudden drop in blood oxygen levels when sleeping. This sudden drop can place a strain on the entire cardiovascular system. The incidence of high blood pressure is much higher in those with sleep apnea over those who do not. The more severe the sleep apnea the higher the risk of high blood pressure. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of stroke, increased risk for atrial fibrillation, and congestive heart failure. Central sleep apnea is not known to cause heart issues but to develop following heart issues.
-Focus Issues / Fatigue. People with sleep apnea often experience daytime fatigue, irritability, and depression. This occurs because patients suffering from sleep apnea will have abnormal sleep rhythms due to the repeated awakening from lack of oxygen to the brain. Children with sleep apnea will often do poorly at school or have behavior issues.
-Eye Issues. Research has shown that sleep apnea can cause optic nerve swelling and glaucoma. Luckily, once the sleep apnea is properly diagnosed and treated thses issues usually go away.
-Possible Surgical Complications. Research has shown that people with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications following major surgery. This is because they are prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation. It is important to let your doctor know in advance of surgery if you have sleep apnea.
-Sexual Dysfunction. Studies have shown that men suffering from sleep apnea have a higher incidence of erectile dysfunction. As mentioned previously, lack of oxygen puts a strain on the entire vascular system and this includes blood flow to the sex organs.
-Liver Issues. Research has also shown that people suffering from sleep apnea are more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests, and their livers are more likely to show signs of scarring.
Other complications can include diabetes, obesity, headaches, and high risk pregnancies.
Tips To Overcoming Sleep Apnea
-Lose Weight. Being overweight is a known risk factor of obstructive sleep apnea. Not every sleep apnea patient is overweight but many are. A small amount of weight loss can improve a person’s sleep apnea to the point of curing a person’s sleep apnea.
-Develop Regular Sleep Patterns. We all need sleep to function and stay healthy. Regular sleep is especially important for those with sleep apnea. A good option for many is the use of a CPAP machine or a Tap II dental appliance. These allow for the airway to stay open alleviating the breakup of sleep during the night.
Researchers have found that about 50% of the people with sleep apnea have most of their breathing issues while sleeping on their backs. People with sleep apnea should consider sleeping in other positions.
-Regular Exercise. Getting just 30 minutes of moderate activity 3-4 days of the week may help ease obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.
-Care For Allergies. Many people suffering from seasonal allergies just “deal” with them. This will only exacerbate the sleep apnea issue as a stuffy nose will make sleeping even more difficult. If you have sleep apnea and nasal allergies, be sure your allergies are under control. Use of a nasal spray (saline) before bed may also help.
-Avoid Alcohol And Sleeping Pills. Both of these are relaxants. This will lead to a relaxation of the muscles of the throat and tongue leading to increased sleep apnea symptoms.
-Quit Smoking. Smoking will worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Conclusion
If you are suspicious you have sleep apnea it is imperative you get yourself checked by a physician or even your dentist. It is an often overlooked disorder that can carry some life changing complications.