The Many Effects of Sleep Apnea

sleepy man in bed

sleepy man in bedObstructive sleep apnea affects nearly 30 million American adults. Though sleep apnea can occur at any age, even in infants, getting older increases a person’s chances of developing it. The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include snoring, gasping, and choking sounds while sleeping.

When left untreated, sleep apnea produces serious side effects. Thankfully, sleep doctors and dentists provide accurate and effective treatments so those affected can live a full and satisfying life.

Continue reading to learn how untreated sleep apnea affects the rest of the body.

Respiratory System

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is blocked while sleeping. This causes patients to stop breathing multiple times throughout the night which results in loud gasping or choking sounds.

This has a tremendous effect on the respiratory system, especially for people who already suffer from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Overtime, obstructive sleep apnea will amplify these existing conditions.

Endocrine System

The endocrine system consists of glands that produce hormones like the pancreas, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, and many more. It helps regulate bodily functions by releasing these hormones throughout the body; therefore, when the endocrine system isn’t working properly, there are several consequences.

Sleep apnea may lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, and weight gain (especially in the abdomen).

Digestive System

Fatty liver disease, high levels of liver enzymes, and liver scarring can all result from sleep apnea. Patients with sleep apnea often complain about worsening heartburn and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Circulatory and Cardiovascular Systems

Because patients stop breathing throughout the night, their blood oxygen levels are usually low and carbon dioxide levels increase. These issues lead to heart problems.

According to Harvard Medical School, sleep apnea can increase a person’s risk of dying from heart disease by five times. Many people with sleep apnea also have high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

Nervous system

The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. While sleep apnea doesn’t have any major impact on the spinal cord, it certainly affects the brain.

Because patients aren’t breathing properly while they sleep, they aren’t getting the appropriate amount of rest either. As a result, they often struggle with memory loss, fatigue, moodiness, and a short attention span.

According to researchers at UCLA, the mammillary bodies—structures that are necessary for memory storage—in a person with sleep apnea are 20% smaller than in people without sleep apnea.

More Impacts of Sleep Apnea

In addition to these negative effects, obstructive sleep apnea is often accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Low libido
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • Brain fog

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, there is hope. Sleep doctors, physicians, and dentists all work together to provide patients with the most effective treatments available.

In many cases, a CPAP machine is effective, but most patients can’t stand the discomfort and noise that comes with it. Thankfully, there’s an alternative solution.

Dr. Timothy Mickiewicz, known as “The Face of Dental Sleep Medicine,” is passionate about providing alternative solutions to sleep apnea patients. This includes a fitted oral appliance called a mandibular advancement device. Many of our patients report a significant improvement in their sleep and reduction of snoring after the first use!

To learn more about this treatment and our dentist, call (916) 469-9178 to schedule an appointment.

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