Cardiovascular Dangers of Sleep Apnea
The leading cause of mortality among people with sleep apnea is heart problems. Sleep apnea can dramatically increase your risk of serious heart problems, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism
The heart problems are linked to a number of factors, but chief among them is the disruption in your body’s normal heart function. When the body senses an oxygen shortage or carbon dioxide surplus, it tells the heart to beat faster and harder. Scarring on the arteries, likely linked to snoring, contributes to arterial plaque, which can then break off and cause a stroke.
Metabolic Dangers of Sleep Apnea
During sleep, your body performs a number of critical metabolic tasks that help regulate the body’s functions. When sleep apnea disrupts your sleep, it disrupts these metabolic tasks, leading to metabolic problems such as:
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight
- Chronic fatigue
- Type II diabetes
- Sexual dysfunction
At night, your body balances the hormones related to hunger and energy use. Sleep apnea disrupts this, making your body more likely to store energy than use it. This can lead to a sense of low energy or fatigue that goes beyond your daytime sleepiness. Poor regulation of bodily energy contributes to type II diabetes. While some part of sexual dysfunction is likely linked to cardiovascular problems, some of it is also linked to hormone disruption.
The link between sleep apnea and cancer is not as well defined as some of the other risks. Many studies show an elevated cancer risk and cancer mortality linked to sleep apnea. The link is likely chronic systemic inflammation.
Cognitive and Mood Dangers of Sleep Apnea
The brain is one of the organs most dependent on sleep for proper functioning. It also needs a steady supply of oxygen to function. When sleep apnea disrupts sleep and the oxygen supply, your brain can suffer serious consequences, including:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory loss
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Loss of motivation
- Increased risk of car and workplace accidents
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
When you’re not sleeping properly at night, you can feel sleepy during the day. You will also likely lose motivation, attention, and memory. All these problems can make you more likely to experience accidents at work or on the road, either from dozing off or from losing focus.
Lack of sleep can also put you into a down mood, or make you irritable and anxious. Sometimes this could be a true mood disorder caused by disruption of brain chemistry. Other times it could be a misdiagnosis caused by your lack of sleep.
One of the most striking dangers of sleep apnea that has been discovered recently is the strong link to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Sleep apnea can accelerate the onset of dementia by ten years.
Protect Your Health and Happiness in Fort Atkinson
Sleep apnea causes widespread dangers to your health, your happiness, and your ability to lead a full, functional life. Treating sleep apnea can extend your life and improve the quality of that life.