While it’s common for Canadians to occasionally snore, if it’s combined with unrestful sleep and constant feelings of exhaustion, it could signify an underlying health concern.
Sleep apnea symptoms and signs should never be ignored. While the misconception is that this sleeping disorder just affects our sleep quality, this is not the case in reality. This post will talk about the surprising health issues that can cause and be caused by sleep apnea disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Obstructive sleep apnea affects approximately 5.4 million Canadians. Unlike normal run of the mill snoring habits, sleep apnea disorders can cause serious health problems for those who suffer from it.
OSA occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax, blocking the airway as you sleep. When your oxygen saturation becomes too low, your brain will cause your body to awaken with a jerking motion to initiate manual breathing again.
While daytime tiredness and fatigue are common side effects, over time if the condition is left untreated, the oxygen depletion your body experiences can also lead to other health issues such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
The short answer is yes. Although it is rare for this condition to be the actual cause of death, it is possible that it will either cause or exacerbate other health issues that can lead to death.
Research studies have found that severe OSA sufferers have a 46% chance of dying early. Another study carried out by the Cleveland Clinic discovered that sleep apnea is also linked to sudden cardiac arrest due to abnormal heart rhythms and low oxygen saturation levels.
The underlying fact here is sleep apnea has the ability to imbalance body and brain chemistry, elevate blood pressure and interrupt cardiac function. So, for those who ignore the warning signs of sleep apnea, you could be in trouble.
Some of the most common health implications caused by ignoring sleep apnea symptoms include:
Keep in mind, that while OSA can cause these health conditions if left untreated, it is also possible for OSA to manifest itself through these conditions too.
Sleep apnea and high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) have long coexisted with each other. Due to the decreased levels of oxygen being delivered to those with OSA, low oxygen saturation levels put stress on the cardiovascular system and increase blood pressure.
People with untreated OSA are also more likely to have an abnormally high cholesterol level. This can lead to heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease, recurrent heart attacks and stroke.
It is not uncommon for people with sleep apnea to have type 2 diabetes, and vice versa. This is because OSA causes insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. Research studies have found that blood sugar levels increase due to the stress of chronic sleep deprivation.
When we’re stressed, our stress hormones can release stored glucose into the liver. Over time, this increase in blood sugar levels contributes to insulin resistance.
While being overweight is certainly going to increase your chances of developing OSA, having a sleep disorder also makes it more difficult to lose weight. Chronic exhaustion caused by sleep apnea makes our bodies produce more of the hormone ghrelin and less of the hormone leptin. Ghrelin increases our cravings for unhealthy foods such as sugar and carbohydrates. Leptin, on the other hand, tells us when we’ve had enough to eat. With less leptin being produced, weight gain is inevitable.
We need restful and restorative sleep to be at our healthiest. While we sleep, our bodies produce a protein called cytokine which targets infection and inflammation. In order for our bodies to be capable of building up an immune response, we need good quality sleep.
As OSA causes chronic nights of disrupted sleep, it puts your immune system in a more vulnerable state. This means that sufferers with untreated OSA are more susceptible to developing infections and illnesses.
Being aware of the signs of sleep apnea and OSA means that you can reduce the dangers this sleep disorder causes and improve quality of life.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a very effective form of sleep apnea treatment and has proven to decrease the risk of health implications caused by OSA. If you believe that you may be suffering from sleep apnea symptoms, it is important to consult with a physician to see if CPAP therapy is the right treatment option.
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