Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Whether you watch television, listen to the radio, or spend time online, chances are you’ve encountered lots of ads related to sleeping, or more appropriately, the lack thereof. Advertising for mattresses, pillows, sleep medications, systems for cleaning CPAP machines, and more all hinge on one very important fact — Americans just aren’t sleeping well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one third of all Americans say they don’t get enough sleep. For some, sleepless nights are a periodic problem connected to stressful situations, while others suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnea which prevents them from enjoying a good night’s sleep.

Problems sleeping may seem like a minor thing. After all, who hasn’t had their share of sleepless nights? Is it really that big of a deal? “Absolutely!” says the skilled team of health professionals at Formé Medical Center in White Plains, New York.

In this blog, we’ll take a deep dive into sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder which if left untreated may lead to life-threatening medical conditions.

Snoring and sleep apnea

When it comes to sleepless nights, the elephant in the room for many people is snoring. Friendly banter between couples about snoring can be amusing. However, when you live it night after night, it’s anything but funny.

About 90 million Americans snore from time to time, while an estimated 37 million snore on a regular basis, disrupting their own sleep pattern as well as anyone within earshot. Although not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea, snoring is the quintessential symptom of the most common form of sleep apnea, called obstructive sleep apnea or OSA.

Sleep apnea can happen to men, women, and even children. As its name suggests, obstructive sleep apnea results from airway blockages that narrow or close, which temporarily stops you from breathing. Your brain then kicks in and wakes you up so that you can resume normal breathing.

This sequence typically repeats throughout the night, wreaking havoc on anything resembling restful sleep.

Linked to hypertension and heart disease

Although the snoring, snorting, choking, and gasping for air often associated with OSA are definitely disruptive and somewhat alarming, they’re so much more than that. It all comes down to blood oxygen deprivation.

Every time you stop breathing due to sleep apnea, your blood oxygen levels take a sudden dip. This drop in blood oxygen in turn puts stress on your cardiovascular system and increases your blood pressure, putting you at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure as well as for having a stroke or heart attack.

If you already have heart disease, these recurring episodes of low blood oxygen can cause sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.

May lead to diabetes and metabolism issues

Similarly, while your blood oxygen levels drop during sleep apnea episodes, you also experience an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, which tinkers with the metabolic functions of your body like blood glucose.

Specifically, sleep apnea may lead to insulin resistance, a condition where your body doesn’t effectively use insulin. This in turn triggers high blood glucose, which puts you at a greater risk of developing diabetes. If you already have diabetes, untreated sleep apnea may make it much more difficult to control.

Being overweight puts you at higher risk

The ramifications of uncontrolled sleep apnea are further complicated if you’re overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese creates fat deposits in your neck, which can block your upper airway. Excess fat tends to compress your chest wall, thereby decreasing your lung volume.

The good news is even losing a little weight, say 10-15%, can reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea while enhancing your overall wellness at the same time. Definitely a win-win.

If you snore and are concerned that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, contact Formé Medical Center to schedule a consultation.

Our skilled team of health professionals at our state-of-the-art medical facility is here to help you find out what’s going on and develop a treatment plan to get you feeling like yourself again. Call our office or request an appointment online today.