Sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to stop breathing during sleep. Around 18 million Americans have such condition.
However, you may be wrong if you think having sleep apneas isn’t a big deal. And there’s also increasing evidence that if you leave sleep apnea untreated, it can have a significant impact on your personal health. We’ll cover five health issued related to sleep apneas in this article.
In addition, if you’re interested in knowing how well you sleep, getting a sleep tracker can help you.
What is Sleep Apnea?
According to Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that you may experience breathing repeatedly starts and stops.
In general, there are 3 types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, which affects 2% to 9% of the adult population in the US, is a respiratory disorder that causes people experiencing either complete or partial collapse of the upper airway during sleep. It can lead to trouble breathing in sleep and even disturb your bed partner.
For more information, please visit obstructive sleep apnea.
- Central sleep apnea, which appears among 0.9% of those who are over 40, happens when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to activate respiratory muscles. It is mainly defined by pauses in breathing because of lacking respiratory effort in sleep.
For more information, please visit central sleep apnea.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, includes the symptoms that both has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea have.
What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
We summarized several symptoms of sleep apnea for your convenience if you need to diagnose it on your own.
If you snore, you might be suffering from sleep apnea. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, nearly half of men and one third of women between 40 and 70 years old suffer from some form of sleep apnea.
- Gasps for Breath.
Snoring is caused by vibrations of the soft tissues in the back of the airway as the muscles relax during sleep. These vibrations cause the tongue to vibrate against the palate, creating noise. In some people, the vibration of the soft tissues in front of the airway also causes them to collapse, resulting in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is characterized by repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway during sleep.
- Choking Sounds.
If you wake up choking or gasping for breath, you should call 911 immediately. You will need to stay calm and quiet so that emergency personnel can hear you. Do not try to clear your throat yourself; instead, wait for help.
- Waking Frequently.
If you wake up frequently during the night, you may have sleep apnea. This condition occurs when your airway becomes blocked during sleep. As a result, you stop breathing for short periods of time.
- Feeling Tired After Only Few Hours of Sleep.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you might be tired after only few hours of sleep. You might feel sleepy throughout the day and find yourself nodding off at work. You might wake up feeling groggy and foggy. These symptoms could be caused by sleep deprivation.
Besides the symptoms, you can also use a sleep tracker to classify your sleep by AHI (Apnea-hypopnea Index):
- Severe obstructive sleep apnea: AHI is greater than 30
- Moderate obstructive sleep apnea: AHI is between 15 and 30
- Mild obstructive sleep apnea: AHI is between 5 and 15
What are the Major Causes of Sleep Apnea?
Studies have found the following factors that are associated with an increased possibility of having sleep apnea.
- Overweight: Higher your BMI (body mass index) is, the more likely you’ll develop sleep apnea.
- Smoke cigarette: Research has found sleep apnea happens more often among cigarettes smokers, compared to non-smokers.
- Abnormal hormone: Hormone conditions like an underactive thyroid or excess production of growth hormone may increase the likelihood of you having sleep apnea by causing tissue swollen near the airway or causing overweight.
- Sleeping position: You may experience sleep apnea while sleeping on your back because it can narrow the airway.
- Nasal congestion: If you have difficulty breathing through the nose, you are more likely to have OSA.
- Alcohol intake: Alcohol can relax the muscles in the back of your throat, interfering with breathing normally at night.
5 Health Issues Related to Sleep Apnea
Studies indicate that having sleep apnea can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn can put stress on the heart. It’s because sleep apnea reduces blood oxygen level and activate the nerve system that’s responsible for increasing heart performance. On top of that, it also increases levels of chemicals in blood that cause inflammation and elevate blood sugar. Such inflammation can harm your heard and blood vessels. Therefore, sleep apnea may trigger both hypertension and diabetes.
If you leave sleep apnea untreated, you may be more likely to have the following health issues:
Over 40% of Americans between the ages of 50 and 60 years old have high blood pressure issues. Sleep apnea is a risk factor for it. Around 50% of people with sleep apnea have hypertension.
· Heart Disease
Sleep apnea might be a risk factor for heart diseases, including future heart attack or angina pectoris. According to statistics, 67% of the adult Americans have heart disease. It often leads to heart attacks and premature death in this country.
You might have heard someone you know had a stroke and it seems a pretty common event, although it’s always devastating to hear. And sleep apnea might be one of the causes for a stoke, and even recovering from a stroke with sleep apnea can be delated. On the other hand, people who had a stroke are more likely to have sleep apnea.
Research has shown that blood sugar levels among people with sleep apnea are higher. Along with the growth in obesity in the USA, more people are having type 2 diabetes. Although the correlation still needs to be studied more, it appears that treatment of sleep apnea improves blood sugar levels.
Treatments to Sleep Apneas
We collected some recommended treatments from Mayo Clinic to save you time to self-care your sleep apnea:
- Lose some weight. Weight loss might relieve constriction of your throat so that sleep apnea can be solved if you return to a healthy weight.
- Do regular exercises. Try at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as a quick walk.
- Avoid alcohol and certain medications such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Because they can relax the muscles in the back of your throat, interfering with breathing normally at night.
- Sleep on your side rather than on your back.
- Quit smoking. Smoking not only can disturb your sleep at night but can also lead to lungs problems.
You can’t underestimate what sleep apnea can bring to your health because it’s not as simple as just snoring and not feeling rested. Sleep apnea can cause more damaging health problems if it’s untreated, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
What to do next? We believe not only it’s important practice the treatments we mentioned, like control weight, do regular exercise, quite smoking, it’s also essential to have a sleep tracker (Go2Sleep is ranked as the best value sleep tracker by Sleep Foundation) to provide you with detailed data, especially AHI, to help you understand your own sleep pattern.