Why Treat Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep condition that affects many Americans. While there are different kinds of sleep conditions, the most common one is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  Essentially, it is when the upper airway collapses, causing frequent pauses in breathing lasting ten seconds or more. It impacts one in five Americans, yet many are left untreated due to misdiagnosis, lack of resources or unawareness that there is even an issue. “Untreated obstructive sleep apnea is a major cause of daytime sleepiness and in almost all cases is associated with snoring and increases the risk of developing heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and many other medical problems.1 ” Because of these serious consequences of untreated sleep apnea, it is incredibly important to seek diagnoses.

Daytime Sleepiness

Apneas or pauses in breathing can occur 30 times or more in the course of a night’s sleep. If each cessation of breathing lasts at least ten seconds and occurs at a minimum of 30 times a night, you can imagine the lack of quality sleep that is occurring. Adults need on average 7 hours of sleep each night, which means that getting restorative sleep is nearly impossible.

These constant sleep interruptions, whether a person is aware of them or not, will lead to frequent daytime sleepiness. According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, about 20 percent of adults in the US experience frequent daytime sleepiness that negatively impacts their daily lives2.

Untreated sleep apnea is a major cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. This can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, relationships and performance as an employee. When the human body undergoes prolonged sleep deprivation, it can make them irritable and cause basic cognitive impairments during the day. Just as the likelihood of OSA increases with age, so do those who report excessive daytime sleepiness3.

Snoring

One of the most noticeable indicators of sleep apnea is snoring. However, this can often be a symptom that many ignore, citing it as a normal sleep habit. Additionally, those who sleep alone may never know if they snore, unless a partner is able to alert them. It often brings discord and frustration into a relationship, where couples resolve to sleep in separate bedrooms instead of treating the underlying cause of snoring. It can also impact the level of quality sleep your partner is getting, as 41 percent of women cite a lack of sleep due to their snoring partner.  Likely, the cause is snoring as 60 percent of individuals who snore have sleep apnea and 100 percent of persons who have sleep apnea snore.

Obesity

Many do not realize this, but sleeping less can actually make an individual gain more weight. It might seem like if a person is moving around more as opposed to sleeping, they will burn more calories and weigh less. However, this is not the case. They are often positively correlated. Being overweight is a significant indicator of OSA and having untreated OSA can cause excessive weight gain4. A study in 2000 conducted by JAMA found that persons who gained “10% of their baseline weight are at a six fold-increased risk of progression of OSA, and an equivalent weight loss can result in a more than 20% improvement in OSA severity.5” If people aren’t getting proper sleep, they will experience low energy and feel lethargic. Surprisingly, individuals may find themselves eating even more with less sleep! These are both significant predictors of weight gain.

Health Risks

Heart attacks, strokes and diabetes are just a few of the health risks that occur when sleep apnea is left untreated.

Heart Disease, Hypertension and Stroke

The heart is at a significant risk when it comes to ignored sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is associated with increased incidences of heart disease and increased mortality. “Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects an estimated 15 million adult Americans and is present in a large proportion of patients with hypertension and in those with other cardiovascular disorders, including coronary artery disease, stroke, and atrial fibrillation6”. Untreated sleep apnea and hypertension often go hand in hand – as 1/3 of patients with hypertension have sleep apnea, and 1/3 of sleep apnea patients have hypertension. It can also lead to an earlier onset of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dr. Mostafavi, a leader in sleep medicine research states, “Patients with untreated severe OSA have a two- to threefold increased risk of all-cause mortality compared with individuals without OSA, independent of other risk factors such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. The association is more pronounced in men than in women and in younger patients compared with older patients.”

Diabetes

It can be alarming to observe that 70% of people with type 2 diabetes have obstructive sleep apnea and about 1/3 of people with obstructive sleep apnea have diabetes. If you have sleep apnea, you are much more likely to have diabetes7.

Epidemiology studies and long term observations of OSA have consistently shown the prevalence of hypertension, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke to be higher.6” As it has been shown, these are serious health risks that cannot be ignored and a strong indicator to meet with your healthcare provider to see if you have OSA. In the same way, if you have these symptoms, OSA can make it worsen.

CPAP Therapy

If you have any of these symptoms or have been diagnosed with OSA, it is imperative that you seek diagnosis or stay compliant with treatment. “CPAP is 100% effective in eliminating snoring, apneas and hypopneas and therefore is considered the gold standard treatment of sleep apnea. It’s one of the few absolutes of medicine1.” CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It helps treat OSA by increasing the air pressure in the throat in order to keep the airway from collapsing during sleep.

FAQs

Does CPAP therapy hurt?

No, it does not hurt. It can take some adjusting to as wearing a sleep mask is going to be different than how you have slept previously. However, your healthcare provider will be able to assist you with any discomfort and offer solutions.

Is it normal for a child to snore?

No, it is not normal for a child to snore. If you notice your child snoring, you should take them to see their healthcare provider to determine the cause. They may have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Is OSA hereditary?

It can be. Some anatomical features are hereditary, such as a narrow throat or a thick neck. These may make you more prone to OSA.

Request your sleep center test today, so you can reap the benefits of a good night’s rest.


  1. American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, “Snoring and Sleep Apnea”, https://www.entnet.org/content/snoring-and-sleep-apnea
  2. Johnson EO. Sleep in America: 2000. Results from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2000 Omnibus sleep poll. Washington, DC: The National Sleep Foundation; 2000. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/atf/cf/{F6BF2668-A1B4-4FE8-8D1A-A5D39340D9CB}/2000_poll.pdf.
  3. PubMed, Daytime sleepiness: more than just Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28853423
  4. Gold AR, Schwartz AR, Wise RA, Smith PL. Pulmonary function and respiratory chemosensitivity in moderately obese patients with sleep apnea. Chest 1993;103:1325–1329.
  5. Peppard PE, Young T, Palta M, Dempsey J, Skatrud J. Longitudinal study of moderate weight change and sleep-disordered breathing. JAMA. 2000;284(23):3015–3021. [PubMed]
  6. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, August 2008, “Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease”. http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/52/8/686
  7. “The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes.”https://www.sleepdr.com/the‐sleep‐blog/the‐link‐between‐sleep‐apnea‐and‐diabetes/

Comments

  1. Marcus Encinas Reply

    This can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, relationships and performance as an employee.

  2. Elk Grove Reply

    Apneas or pauses in breathing can occur 30 times or more in the course of a night’s sleep. .

  3. io games Reply

    Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by cessation of breathing during sleep. Although the cause of sleep apnea is not known, it is believed to be connected with several medical conditions, including obesity and heart disease.

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