Sleep apnea goes far beyond loud snoring. This sleep disorder causes you to stop breathing throughout the night, depriving your brain and your body of much-needed oxygen. The net effect of this takes its toll on your health in many obvious, and not-so-obvious, ways.
At Doueck Dental & Sleep Medicine in Brooklyn, New York, we specialize in treating patients with sleep apnea. So, if you’re on the fence as to whether you should seek treatment, these 7 health issues associated with sleep apnea should underscore the importance of medical intervention.
1. Loss of sleep: the tip of the iceberg
Let’s start with one of the more obvious, and troubling, side effects of sleep apnea—loss of sleep. Good, solid sleep does wonders for your overall health and wellness, allowing your body to regroup each night so that you can face each day with renewed energy. When your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, it can have a cascading effect on your ability to function normally.
To start, many people with sleep apnea suffer from chronic fatigue and daytime sleepiness. Falling asleep at your desk after a long night with the baby, or with friends, is one thing, but persistent sleep deprivation can have a sizeable impact on how well you’re able to function on a daily basis.
2. Memory loss
While your body is asleep, your brain takes this time to process the day’s events, organizing them into memories. If your brain is frequently interrupted by lack of oxygen, you’re unable to create memories, and your ability to retain or recall information is greatly affected.
Your memory may be further impaired because your brain is unable to focus and hold onto information in the first place, thanks to the fatigue that comes with sleep apnea.
3. Heart issues
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to sleep apnea is the potential for cardiovascular issues. When you stop breathing, you’re no longer taking in the oxygen you need and your heart has to work harder to deliver what little there is. Because of this, your sleep apnea makes you more prone to high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. More seriously, your risk of heart attack and stroke are also elevated.
When it comes to linking sleep apnea to depression, it’s a classic chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Medical research has linked the two, but it appears that the order in which they come on can go both ways. In other words, if you suffer from depression and have trouble sleeping, you may develop sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, the loss of sleep can bring on, or exacerbate, pre-existing depression. Either way, getting your sleep apnea treated will have a positive effect on depression.
There have been many studies that have established a link between sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes. One such study in Canada found that people with severe sleep apnea were 30% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while people with mild to moderate sleep apnea had a 23% increased risk. The exact nature of the connection is still unclear, but researchers believe that sleep apnea plays a part in increasing your resistance to insulin.
6. Eye problems
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of loss of vision worldwide and researchers have found a connection between sleep apnea and the increased occurrence of glaucoma. Researchers believe that the loss of oxygen caused by sleep apnea can damage your optic nerve.
While moodiness and irritability may not exactly be a physical health problem, it most certainly is a mental health one. Because of the loss of oxygen to your brain, the chemicals in your brain that regulate your moods are thrown off, often leaving you overly stressed and irritable.
Researchers continue to uncover the many ways sleep apnea can negatively impact your health, something which we at Doueck Dental & Sleep Medicine have understood for years. As a result, we’ve devoted much of our practice to helping our patients successfully manage their sleep apnea.
If you have sleep apnea, getting the right care sooner rather than later can save you from some very serious health complications down the road. Feel free to call us to find out how we can help or to schedule an appointment.