Sleep apnea is a problem that affects more than 18 million US adults. There are potentially serious consequences of untreated sleep apnea, so it is important to talk to your doctor about the diagnosis and a solution of the sleep disorder.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of your airway when you’re asleep. This prevents constant streams of air from getting into your lungs, which leads to oxygen deprivation, and can cause you to wake up. This can occur as rarely as a few times every couple of nights to a dozen times in a single hour.
People can develop sleep apnea for several reasons. For instance, some people acquire this sleep disorder if they are overweight because excess fat around the neck or chest area contributes to airway blockage. However, you don’t need to be overweight to have sleep apnea; some people have a naturally narrow airway that increases their risk. If you have an allergy or another condition that contributes to airway congestion, you may have an increased risk of developing this sleep disorder.
Common Signs of Sleep Apnea
• Snoring caused by partial airway.
• Pauses in breathing.
• Daytime fatigue like falling asleep during the day, feeling tired all the time, or having a hard time concentrating.
• Often waking up with a headache or high blood pressure, as both conditions can be the result of low blood-oxygen levels.
What are the Risks of Sleep Apnea?
One of the most common issues with sleep apnea is the way it affects your quality of life. This restless disorder leads to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and even mood swings, all of which tend to make life more difficult and less enjoyable. The snoring and sleep disturbances may also affect your partner, who might find it difficult to get to obtain quality rest.
Sleep apnea has some potentially serious long-term consequences, too, as the lack of sleep and oxygen can put strain on the cardiovascular system. If you have an untreated rest disorder, you face an increased risk of reflux disease, diabetes, stroke, and heart problems.
In addition, because people with sleep apnea tend to be tired during the day, there’s a higher risk of workplace accidents, traffic accidents, and other potentially dangerous situations.
While sleep apnea does have serious consequences if untreated, there are effective treatments that prevent apnea and normalize your sleep—so if you suspect you have a rest disorder, it’s important to see your doctor for advice.