Sleep apnea isn’t an uncommon condition. An estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea and nearly 80% of moderate to severe cases are undiagnosed and untreated. This doesn’t even take into account the people who knowingly have sleep apnea and leave it untreated or those with mild cases. With that said, there are millions of people in the US suffering from untreated sleep apnea. At Bite Align, we want our patients to live their lives to their fullest. To accomplish this, sleep apnea treatment is essential. When sleep apnea goes untreated, it can lead to several serious health consequences.
1. High Blood Pressure
One of the health consequences of untreated sleep apnea that can have a big impact on your overall cardiovascular health is high blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, having sleep apnea can make it much worse. When you have sleep apnea, you will stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. As your oxygen levels drop, it boosts your stress levels which results in elevated blood pressure. Sleep apnea treatment along with blood pressure medicines can help bring your blood pressure back down to a healthy level.
2. Heart Disease
Having obstructive sleep apnea and leaving it untreated greatly increases your chance of having heart disease. The low oxygen levels and increased blood pressure can result in strokes and atrial fibrillation. Sleep apnea also makes it more difficult for your brain to control the flow of blood in your brain and arteries. Each of these consequences can result in heart disease.
3. Weight Gain
Sleep apnea and weight are a double-edged sword. Gaining weight can cause you to get sleep apnea and having sleep apnea can cause you to gain weight. Without sleep apnea treatment, you will feel sleep deprived which doesn’t just make you feel unmotivated to exercise, but also affects your hunger hormones. As a result, you will feel more hungry and crave sweets and carbs.
4. Type 2 Diabetes
Nearly 80% of people with type 2 diabetes also have obstructive sleep apnea. The reason that the correlation between diabetes and sleep apnea is so strong is due to one common denominator: obesity. Being overweight can result in type 2 diabetes and having untreated sleep apnea can cause one to gain weight and cause insulin resistance.
5. Adult Asthma
Having sleep apnea can make asthma much worse for adults. After sleep apnea treatment, people report having fewer asthma attacks.
When you’re sleep-deprived (a result of untreated sleep apnea), it affects your ability to concentrate and may even result in falling asleep throughout the day. As a result, those with untreated sleep apnea have a higher risk of getting into an automobile accident or have an accident when operating heavy machinery. People with sleep apnea have a 5 times higher risk of getting into a car accident than people without.
7. Acid Reflux
There’s no evidence to prove that sleep apnea causes acid reflux, but it’s a common symptom among people who have sleep apnea. With sleep apnea treatment, many people report fewer episodes of heartburn.
Sleep apnea can also affect your mental health. People with sleep apnea have a higher chance of suffering from depression than those without. With treatment, depression symptoms can reduce.
9. Weakened Immune System
A strong immune system is now more important than ever. When you suffer from sleep apnea and the sleep deprivation it causes, it will have a big impact on your immune system. If you ever think back to times in your life when you got really sick, it was probably during a time when you felt really stressed or sleep-deprived like after taking finals in school. Sleep apnea is no different. When your body is stressed and sleep-deprived all the time, it will make your immune system less effective at fighting off viruses and infections. You can expect to get sick more often when you have sleep apnea.
10. Liver Problems
Sleep apnea has a strong link to fatty liver disease and liver enzyme levels that are much higher than normal. Fatty liver disease is also associated with being overweight.
11. Abnormal Cholesterol
Another way sleep apnea can affect your heart is by affecting your cholesterol levels. For instance, patients with sleep apnea often have higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
One of the most common symptoms of people with sleep apnea is feeling fatigued throughout the day. This is a result of waking up repeatedly throughout the night.
13. Mental Confusion and Memory Loss
Sleep deprivation can leave your mental state feeling foggy which can make concentration, problem-solving, and thinking clearly incredibly difficult. It may even lead to mental confusion. Sleep deprivation will also affect your memory because sleep helps your brain consolidate and store information. Without proper sleep, your memories aren’t getting stored properly or not at all.
14. Sexual Dysfunction
Sleep apnea is also associated with lower levels of sexual desire and can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Get Sleep Apnea Treatment in Fort Atkinson, WI
If you want to optimize your health and avoid the health consequences of sleep apnea listed above, we highly encourage you to book an appointment at Bite Align to discuss treatment options for your sleep apnea. If you’re not yet diagnosed, we can refer you to take a home sleep test and receive a diagnosis from a sleep physician.