Sleep apnea is more than just snoring. It causes your breathing to pause multiple times throughout the night, which deprives your body of oxygen and puts a strain on your system. Left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems, and some of them are life-threatening.
Sleep is a crucial component of your health, allowing your body and brain to recover and regulating things like hormone production. If you have sleep apnea, it’s important to seek appropriate treatment.
Samuel I. Fink, MD, brings the very best in internal medicine care to the Tarzana, California, community and specializes in helping patients manage sleep apnea. Dr. Fink can help you get back on track if you’re experiencing symptoms, seeking a diagnosis, or need better sleep apnea management.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that does more than interfere with a good night’s rest. With obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is the most common form of the disorder, your airway collapses or otherwise becomes obstructed when you’re sleeping, briefly preventing you from getting oxygen.
This can happen several times an hour depending on the severity of your sleep apnea. It could add up to hundreds of times a night.
In central sleep apnea, another form of the disorder, your airway remains open but your brain fails to tell your muscles to breathe. This can happen if there’s a dysfunction in your respiratory control center, which your central nervous system regulates.
Who’s at risk for sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea affects adults and even some children. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop sleep apnea because fatty tissue in the neck can compress or cover your airway when you lie down. Additionally, certain sinus issues, enlarged tonsils, and structural abnormalities of the jaw can lead to sleep apnea.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
Undergoing a sleep study is the only way to determine definitively if you have sleep apnea. Dr. Fink can get you set up with a study at a lab or at home to confirm suspicions of sleep apnea.
The condition typically causes loud snoring. Other signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Waking up frequently during the night
- Excessive sleepiness and trouble concentrating during the day
- Feeling unrested even after a full night’s sleep
- Frequent urge to urinate overnight
- Changes in mood
Children with sleep apnea may wet the bed, and their school performance may suffer.
Dangers of untreated sleep apnea
Uncontrolled sleep apnea poses a great risk to your health. Here are some of the ways untreated sleep apnea is dangerous for your health.
High blood pressure
Sleep apnea has a negative impact on blood pressure and can lead to hypertension if left untreated for long enough. The more severe your sleep apnea, the greater your chances of developing high blood pressure. Even children with sleep apnea are susceptible to blood pressure increases.
Interruptions in breathing greatly affect your heart. Sleep apnea makes you prone to irregular heartbeats, coronary artery disease, a heart attack, and congestive heart failure.
Sleep apnea even has an impact on the size and shape of your heart. It can cause your heart to enlarge, reduce pump function, and thicken your heart’s walls, all of which are bad news for heart health.
Sleep apnea significantly increases your risk for stroke. A stroke is a "brain attack" that happens when your brain's blood supply is cut off. Either a blood clot blocking an artery or a blood vessel break can cause a stroke.
Brain function decline
Brain structures that help regulate processes like memory, mood, and blood pressure are affected by sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea affects the chemicals in your body that regulate mood, increasing your risk for anxiety and depression.
Insulin resistance and reduced glucose tolerance are linked to sleep apnea. When your body can’t effectively use insulin, Type 2 diabetes, a leading cause of death in the United States, develops. Research indicates diabetes may develop as a result of sleep apnea.
Not only does obesity increase your risk of sleep apnea, but having sleep apnea can lead to weight gain, raising your risk of obesity. This creates a vicious cycle.
Sleep apnea can throw your metabolism out of whack and interfere with crucial hormones that regulate energy production, food intake, and the rate at which you burn calories. For example, sleep apnea appears to increase ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry, and this can lead to an increased appetite and higher food intake.
People with sleep apnea have a significantly higher risk of dying than those without the condition, and those with more severe sleep apnea are at an even greater risk. When sleep apnea goes untreated, risk of death also rises.
Don’t delay seeking treatment for sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is dangerous, but successful treatments are available. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can ensure air flow throughout the night and reduce many of the risk factors related to sleep apnea.
Trust the experience of primary care physician Dr. Samuel I. Fink. Call our office Monday through Friday or request an appointment online anytime.