5 Ways Sleep Apnea Can Harm Your Health

July 06, 2016

Do you snore heavily or gasp for air while you’re sleeping? Do you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep? If so, you could be one of 25 million Americans who suffer from the sleep disorder Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea is much more than a minor nuisance overcome by a few cups of coffee. Instead, it could lead you to develop several chronic and serious medical conditions. 

OSA is an airway blockage during sleep that restricts the amount of oxygen your body receives at night. The decreased oxygen signals your brain to enter a state of “fight or flight,” where stress hormones are released, which disrupts a number of systems in your body. With sleep apnea, your body also doesn’t get enough restorative sleep that heals the body. Without a sleep study and proper treatment, you’ll be more at risk for developing the following conditions: 

  1. High Blood Pressure. When you have OSA, stress hormones are released and increase your blood pressure during sleep, when the body should be resting. Oxygen shortages also cause blood vessels to tighten up in order to increase the flow of oxygen through the body. 37% of people with high blood pressure also have OSA. 
  2. Type II Diabetes.  Insulin is one hormone that is disrupted by OSA. Since insulin’s job is to regulate sugars, your body can develop insulin resistance from the disruption, which may lead to Type II diabetes. Lack of sleep can also lead to the consumption of more carbohydrates in an attempt to make more energy, which can also lead to Type II diabetes. 72% of people with Type II diabetes also have OSA.  
  3. Stroke. OSA indirectly causes strokes because it increases your risk for high blood pressure, which occurs because of the strain that low oxygen levels place on your cardiovascular system. 70% of people who have a stroke or Transischemic Attack (TIA) also have OSA.    
  4. Heart Disease.  Frequent drops in blood oxygen levels likely lead to damaged blood vessels to the heart and increased heart rate, which puts excessive strain on your heart. 30% of people with coronary artery disease also have OSA. 
  5. Obesity. While obesity is often a precursor to OSA, OSA can actually lead to obesity in those with a healthy weight. Being exhausted leads us to crave caffeine and high sugar and high fat foods that give us bursts of energy. We sustain ourselves on these types of foods to get through our day, which leads to weight gain. 77% of people who are obese also have OSA. 

If you think you may have OSA, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study.  For more information on Shore’s Sleep Center, call (855) 633-6818 or visit shoremedicalcenter.org/departments/sleep_medicine.

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