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How Serious Is Sleep Apnea

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Continued Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Why is Sleep Apnea a Serious Health Concern?

Sometimes individuals with treated sleep apnea still experience excessive daytime sleepiness , a chronic condition, and need help with improving wakefulness. We know this sleep deficit is contributing to worsening co-existing medical conditions and impacts human performance as well as cognitive abilities.

For this reason, physicians may prescribe medications, after diagnosing EDS, to improve daytime functioning for those who suffer from this chronic condition.

Treatment of EDS relies on identifying and treating the underlying disorder which may alleviate the symptoms from EDS. The medications used to treat EDS work in the brain to help keep an individual alert and awake during the day. There is declining usage of older, previously prescribed medications to treat EDS due to several adverse effects risk of dependency, especially when illicitly misused. A new generation of medications, more specifically targeted to treat EDS cases is becoming the standard of care.

Know Your Sleep Apnea Risk Level

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects more than 30 million Americans who suffer from lack of restorative sleep.

The majority are undiagnosed and unaware of their condition.

Typical symptoms include heavy snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, difficulty with concentration or memory, among many others.

Untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health consequences.

Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

As stated earlier, most people only become aware of the problem through indirect symptoms or when they are diagnosed by a sleep apnea specialist. For example, the lack of sleep causes the victim to be perpetually fatigued. Lack of sleep also lowers ones immunity levels making the victim prone to ailments. However, there are serious consequences if this condition is not treated in time. For example, sleep apnea has been linked to cardiovascular disorders, stroke, and much more. All these are potentially fatal conditions. Sleep apnea has also been known to contribute to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other serious medical conditions. For these reasons, it is important that one seeks intervention as soon as possible.

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Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous

Sleep apnea is a common condition that is thought to affect about 22 million Americans. But just because it is so common does not mean its normal. You may be wondering, is sleep apnea dangerous? Lets learn more about this sleep disorder and how you can treat it.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition thats characterized by pauses in breathing while you sleep. These pauses can last for several seconds to even minutes at a time.

Normally when we sleep air flows smoothly into the nose, through the airway, and into the lungs. But with sleep apnea, the airflow is obstructed, most commonly by the relaxation of tissues in the neck and upper airway.

When we sleep, the tissues in our neck and throat relax. In some people, the relaxation of these tissues, along with the tongue falling back into the airway, can obstruct natural airflow, causing pauses in breathing. This is the most common cause of sleep apnea and is known as obstructive sleep apnea .

Other than OSA, there is another less common type of sleep apnea known as central sleep apnea. This isnt caused by obstruction of the airway but happens because the brain isnt sending messages to your body to breathe. In other words, your body doesnt even try to breathe because the brain isnt signaling it to.

Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Risk And Metabolism

Two Types of Sleep Apnea: Obstructive and Central

Several studies have shown an association between sleep apnea and problems like type 2 diabetes , strokes , heart attacks and even a shortened lifespan, says Jun. Why this connection? For one thing, obesity is common in sleep apnea patients, and obesity greatly increases risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack, he says. In most cases, obesity is the main culprit behind both conditions, Jun explains.

Still, its important to note that not everyone with sleep apnea is obese. Furthermore, evidence suggests an independent link between sleep apnea and diabetes. Our lab and others have shown that sleep apnea is associated with higher risks of diabetes, independent of obesity, and that sleep apnea can increase blood sugar levels, says Jun.

For people who are overweight or obese, weight loss is key for treating or avoiding sleep apnea. People who accumulate fat in the neck, tongue and upper belly are especially vulnerable to getting sleep apnea. This weight reduces the diameter of the throat and pushes against the lungs, contributing to airway collapse during sleep.

Women in particular should be careful as they age. While premenopausal women tend to put on weight in the hips and in the lower body instead of the belly, this shifts with time. Weight begins to accumulate in traditionally male areas like the tummy, and this leads to a greater chance of sleep apnea.

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Positive Airway Pressure Devices

Positive airway pressure machines, used with a variety of breathing masks, are the most widely used treatment for moderate and severe sleep apnea.

The mask, worn snugly over the nose, or sometimes nose and mouth, during sleep, supplies pressurized air that flows continuously or intermittently into the sleepers throat. The increased air pressure prevents the sleepers airway from collapsing.

The pressurized air is supplied through a flexible tube from one of several types of machines: CPAP , BiPAP , VPAP , and so on. Studies of the effect of PAP therapy show that people with sleep apnea who consistently use their machines feel better and, as a result of the reduction of apnea and hypopnea episodes during sleep, encounter fewer complications of the disease. Theres more information about PAP therapy here.

Although PAP devices are not used to treat snoring alone, they do eliminate snoring in addition to treating obstructive sleep apnea.

It Often Goes Undiagnosed

Around 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, but 80% of moderate to severe cases go undiagnosed. This is another reason why its such a dangerous condition. You could be putting yourself at risk for serious heart problems and not even know.

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek professional help from Dr. Shayya. Hes board-certified in both neurology and neuromuscular medicine, making him an expert at treating sleep apnea.

To learn more, get in touch with Neurology Consultants of Arizona by phone or use our online booking tool.

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What About Mild Sleep Apnea

There have not always been consistent outcomes data or consensus about treatment recommendations for people with mild sleep apnea. Nonetheless, there are several studies that have demonstrated quality of life benefits in treating mild OSA, including a recent study published in The Lancet, where researchers from 11 centers throughout the United Kingdom recruited and randomized 301 patients with mild OSA to receive CPAP plus standard of care vs. standard of care alone, and followed them over three months. The results found that in patients with mild OSA, treatment with CPAP improved their quality of life, based on a validated questionnaire.

This study supports a comprehensive approach to evaluation and treatment of mild OSA. While all people with mild OSA may not need to be treated with CPAP, there are patients who can greatly benefit from it.

Stick To A Regular Sleep Schedule

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious and life-threatening condition

Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same times every day helps you to get the right kind of sleep. You need to experience the full cycle of deep- and lighter-stage sleep to feel well rested. A regular sleeping schedule also prevents you from getting overtired, which can make sleep apnea symptoms worse.

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Snored To Death: The Symptoms And Dangers Of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Sleep is a critically important component of human existence. On average, humans spend about 25% to 35% of their lives sleeping. Sleep allows both the body and brain to rest and recover from the stress of daily life. As such, trouble sleeping can cause a range of health problems, and if left untreated, dire consequences.

% Of Children Who Snore Have Sleep Apnea

Theres no need to worry if your kid snores from time to time since this isnt the only symptom of OSA. However, if they also snort, cough, or mouth-breathe while asleep, its a good idea to see a doctor. Adequate, timely treatment can prevent serious health complications related to this sleep disorder.

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Tips To Improve Health And Comfort

Choose a CPAP device with a built-in humidifier. Most devices now include a built-in humidifier, which helps prevent the dryness and skin irritation that can sometimes occur.

If youre experiencing nasal congestion, you may prefer a full-face mask over a nasal or nasal pillow mask. Also be sure to keep your humidifier tank full, keep your tubing and mask clean, and make sure your filter is clean. Nasal sprays and antihistamines also help.

Keep your device clean. Its very important to clean your CPAP hose, nosepiece or mask, and humidifier tub regularly, as a dirty CPAP device can cause infections and even pneumonia. Your sleep doctor and device manufacturer will give you detailed cleaning instructions.

To ensure maximum comfort, ask your doctor about soft pads to reduce skin irritation, nasal pillows for nose discomfort, and chinstraps to keep your mouth closed and reduce throat irritation and dry mouth.

Mask the sound of the CPAP machine. Most new CPAP devices are quiet, but if the sound of your CPAP machine bothers you, try placing it beneath the bed and using a sound machine to muffle the noise.

Dangers Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Can Leave You Vulnerable To Serious Health ...

If sleep apnea isnt treated, the brain and body cant get the oxygen they need to function optimally. And because sleep apnea is a chronic disorder, this lack of oxygen happens night after night, and the effects build.

This habitual lack of oxygen can be dangerous to your health and cause complications, some of which can become chronic medical disorders themselves. Complications that can develop due to sleep apnea include the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes

Sleep apnea can also cause mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

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Treatments May Be Trial And Error Until You And Your Doctor Get It Right

When sleep apnea is mild, treatment recommendations are less clear-cut, and should be determined based on the severity of your symptoms, your preferences, and other co-occurring health problems. Working in conjunction with your doctor, you can try a stepwise approach if one treatment doesnt work, you can stop that and try an alternative. Managing mild sleep apnea involves shared decision-making between you and your doctor, and you should consider just how bothered you are by sleep apnea symptoms, as well as other components of your health that could be made worse by untreated sleep apnea.

Improving Health With Current Research

Learn about the following ways the NHLBI continues to translate current research into improved health for people with sleep apnea.

  • Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board . The NHLBI has administered this specialty program advisory panel since 1993. Board members, including medical professionals, federal partners, and members of the public, meet regularly to provide feedback to the NIH on sleep-related research needs and to discuss how to move sleep research forward. Visit the Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board for more information.
  • National Sleep Research Resource . This resource was established by the NHLBI to provide biomedical researchers a large, well-characterized data collection from NIH-funded sleep research studies. These data can be used in new research studies to advance sleep research. Visit the National Sleep Research Resource for more information.
  • Identification of genes that increase susceptibility to obstructive sleep apnea. The NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine program and its Whole-Genome Sequencing project is using WGS data to identify genetic variations that may increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Visit the Cleveland Family Study-WGS Collaboration for more information.

Learn about some of our pioneering research contributions that have improved clinical care.

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Who Gets Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs in about 25% of men and nearly 10% of women. Sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, including babies and children and particularly people over the age of 50 and those who are overweight.

Certain physical traits and clinical features are common in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. These include excessive weight, large neck and structural abnormalities reducing the diameter of the upper airway, such as nasal obstruction, a low-hanging soft palate, enlarged tonsils or a small jaw with an overbite.

Signs And Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

The Effects of Untreated Sleep Apnea | Katherine Green, MD, Sleep medicine | UCHealth

Family members or bed partners often pick up on the signs of sleep apnea first. Many people with sleep apnea don’t know they’re snoring and gasping for breath at night. If you have any of the following signs, see your doctor:

  • daytime sleepiness
  • loud snoring followed by silent pauses
  • gasping or choking during sleep
  • morning headache
  • poor concentration or memory loss
  • lowered sex drive

Snoring by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea. It is true that loud snoring is common in people with this disorder, but there’s a big difference between simple snoring and sleep apnea.

Untreated sleep apnea can cause serious health problems. If it’s not treated, sleep apnea can lead to:

  • high blood pressure
  • work-related injuries

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What Are The Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea

You are at a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea if:

The ASAA estimates that between 1 and 4 percent of American children have sleep apnea.

Although surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids is the most common treatment for pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, positive airway pressure therapy and oral appliances are also prescribed.

Make an appointment with your doctor if youre exhibiting any of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, especially:

  • loud, disruptive snoring
  • episodes of stopped breathing while sleeping
  • abrupt awakenings from sleep that are frequently accompanied by gasping or choking

Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist, a medical doctor with additional training and education in sleep medicine.

Treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes, therapies and surgeries, if needed.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes To Prevent Sleep Apnea

If you are concerned about having risk factors for developing sleep apnea, ask your doctor to recommend healthy lifestyle changes, including eating a heart-healthy diet, aiming for a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. Your doctor may recommend that you sleep on your side and adopt healthy sleep habits such as getting the recommended amount of sleep.

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Central Sleep Apnea Causes And Risk Factors

Like obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is more common in men and people over the age of 65. But unlike obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is often associated with serious illness, such as heart disease, stroke, neurological disease, or spinal or brainstem injury. Some people with obstructive sleep apnea can also develop central sleep apnea when theyre being treated with positive airway pressure devices.

Mild Sleep Apnea Symptoms


A person is given a diagnosis of mild sleep apnea based on an overnight sleep study called a polysomnography. Polysomnography records blood oxygen levels, brain waves, breathing patterns, eye movement, heart rate, leg movement, sleep stages, snoring, and more.

If you havent taken a sleep study and your symptoms are mild, it might be harder for you to know you are having sleep issues. But it is important to know what symptoms mild sleep apnea might cause because some of them can have a serious effect on your health over time.

People with mild apnea might snore. While snoring usually isnt cause for any alarm, consistent and loud snoring is a sign of sleep apnea. Of course, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.

Sleepiness is another common symptom of mild sleep apnea. People with mild sleep apnea dont realize how much their sleep is being interrupted at night. All these interruptions can cause you to feel sleepy throughout your day.

Sleepiness can also cause you to have low energy and drowsiness, and might affect your cognition

High blood pressure is also common with mild sleep apnea. This is because when oxygen levels fall, brain receptors are triggered. They send messages to the blood vessels to increase oxygen to the heart and brain so that the body can keep doing its job.

Additional sleep apnea symptoms that someone with mild sleep apnea might experience include:

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Health Consequences Of Sleep Apnea

The chronic sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can result in daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and an increased risk of accidents and errors in your daily activities.

Sleep apnea also has a mental impact. It can trigger moodiness and irritability and cause anxiety and depression. It also increases your risk of other serious health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and stroke.

How Serious Is Untreated Sleep Apnea

by HPI® Staff | Jul 2, 2021 | Headaches

When it comes to sleep apnea, most people often dont know that they have a problem. This is because the episodes of waking up in the middle of the night are so fleeting that many people are not aware of them. They may experience other symptoms such as fatigue, falling asleep during the day, and an inability to concentrate on their work or studies. So how serious is untreated sleep apnea? In this article, we explore what exactly is sleep apnea and the consequences of not treating the disorder.

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