Attention snorers and those kept awake! Sleep apnea may be the culprit, but it’s treatable

Sleep

By pH health care professionals

Obstructive sleep apnea causes a person to repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep, and it affects an estimated 29.4 million Americans, market research company Frost & Sullivan estimates. That’s about 12 percent of the population! However, counting cases of mild sleep apnea, the American Heart Association actually estimates it may be as common as one in five adults, and many cases are going undiagnosed and untreated.

People who have untreated sleep apnea often are exhausted and struggle with concentration, memory and decision-making. Even people who don’t have the condition are affected by it! For example, if you sleep near someone with sleep apnea, you may be all too familiar with the loud snoring. Additionally, Frost & Sullivan estimates undiagnosed sleep apnea causes $86.9 billion in lost productivity, $26.2 billion in auto accidents and $6.5 billion in workplace accidents each year.  

The key is diagnosis and treatment, so everyone can rest easy. Being treated for sleep apnea can help you feel like a new person by allowing you to get better sleep, be more productive and miss fewer work days. Take a few minutes to understand how sleep apnea may be affecting your health and what you can do about it!

What are the health risks of sleep apnea?

If you have sleep apnea and it goes untreated, you may be increasing your risk for:

  • Hypertension. Sleep apnea may cause surges in blood pressure that keep it elevated at night, research shows.

  • Heart disease and poor heart health. Sleep apnea is associated with many risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure, the American Heart Association says.

  • Diabetes. At least 40 percent of people with obstructive sleep apnea may have Type 2 diabetes.

  • Depression. People with sleep apnea may be five times more likely to have clinical depression. An American Academy of Sleep Medicine study found continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy reduced symptoms of depression in people with sleep apnea.

  • Earlier decline in thinking and memory. People with obstructive sleep apnea may develop mild cognitive impairment an average of 10 years earlier than those without sleep breathing problems, according to the American Academy of Neurology.

  • Impaired brain function. Sleep apnea can interfere with your brain’s neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and GABA, UCLA research suggests. It may ramp up glutamate, which is essentially your brain’s accelerator, causing stress, while decreasing GABA, the brake pedal, which makes you feel more calm and happy.

  • Death. An 18-year study showed  people with severe, untreated sleep apnea died at a rate of more than three times that of those without the condition. Another study found  people with obstructive sleep apnea have a greater risk of sudden cardiac death.

What are the signs of sleep apnea?

  • Snoring

  • Gasping or choking during sleep

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue

You are more likely to have sleep apnea if you are overweight or obese, or if you have oversized tonsils or tongue. If you have teeth imprints along your tongue, that may mean your tongue is too large for your mouth and that you should be screened for sleep apnea. Men are more likely than women to have the condition, and although any age group can be affected, the risk increases as you age. You also may be more likely to have sleep apnea if you have a family history of it. If you have small airways, you may also be more likely to have sleep apnea.

Treatment for sleep apnea

CPAP therapy is often recommended for people with obstructive sleep apnea. It includes wearing a mask while you sleep to keep your airways open. Weight loss also may help improve or eliminate sleep apnea symptoms. In some cases, your doctor may recommend upper airway surgery, a dental appliance to reposition the lower jaw or even a type of nerve stimulation. But each situation is unique, so be proactive and discuss this with your doctor.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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