If you don’t know much about sleep apnea, you likely don’t know how serious of a condition it is. With an estimated 22 million Americans with the condition and nearly 80% of those conditions undiagnosed, a large percentage of Americans are putting themselves at big health risks without knowing it. Learn about the dangers of untreated sleep apnea.
When sleep apnea goes untreated, it can affect your mental health just as much as your physical health. Research shows that 46% of people with obstructive sleep apnea also had depression symptoms. The most common correlation between depression and sleep apnea is sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on mood and a general feeling of wellness. Sleep apnea treatment prevents sleep deprivation from occurring and as a result, can help improve depression symptoms.
About 60% of people with sleep apnea also experience chronic acid reflux, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Although the link between the two is still not clear, studies show that sleep interruptions can induce GERD. On the other hand, untreated acid reflux can impact sleep. By treating sleep apnea, it can improve GERD symptoms and by treating GERD, it can improve your quality of sleep. Without either treatment, it can have a huge impact on your quality of sleep and quality of life.
When you sleep at night, your body uses that time to restore and refresh itself for a brand new day. When your sleep gets interrupted constantly, your brain doesn’t have the time it needs to restore. Memories that should get stored away are getting lost instead. Sleep apnea can impair the brain’s ability to encode and consolidate information like memories. Once you get sleep apnea treatment and start sleeping uninterrupted, your ability to remember things will improve.
High Blood Pressure
Another health danger of untreated sleep apnea is high blood pressure. Untreated sleep apnea causes sleep deprivation which puts a strain on the heart. When you constantly stop breathing throughout the night and catch your breath repeatedly, it increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Without treatment, high blood pressure can increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other heart conditions.
It’s no surprise that sleep apnea can affect your mental health. Sleep deprivation can make it difficult to think straight. Have you ever been really tired and tried to solve a simple math equation? People with sleep apnea experience lower levels of GABA and higher levels of glutamate than those without sleep apnea. These brain chemicals help regulate thinking, emotions, and physical functions like perspiration and blood pressure. When sleep apnea goes untreated, you will regularly experience mental confusion and have a difficult time focusing.
Untreated sleep apnea can make asthma conditions worse. Sleep apnea can affect asthma symptoms by weakening the airways. Sleep apnea causes irritation and contraction of the muscles around the airway. As the airway narrows, it can make asthma symptoms worse. It can also increase the inflammatory chemicals in the bloodstream which can increase the inflammation in the lungs already present from having asthma. The last way sleep apnea can affect asthma is by causing acid reflux or making acid reflux worse. When acid reflux occurs, it irritates the esophagus and throat’s nerves which can worsen asthma symptoms.
Low Blood Oxygen Levels
Obstructive sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing during sleep. As a result, their blood oxygen levels drop dramatically. Low blood oxygen levels put a strain on the cardiovascular system and can result in high blood pressure.
Those with sleep apnea are at a higher risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease which is the number one cause of chronic liver failure in the US. Recent studies show that there is a direct link between fatty liver disease and sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea can help reverse the condition.
Those with untreated sleep apnea have a higher risk of heart problems.
For example, those with sleep apnea:
- Are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms
- Have an increased risk of heart failure by 140%
- Have an increased risk of coronary heart disease by 30%
Untreated sleep apnea also increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Weakened Immune System
A lack of sleep can directly affect the immune system. During sleep, the body creates antibodies and cells that are necessary to fight off infections. With constant interruptions to sleep, the body doesn’t have time to create these antibodies and cells. As a result, the immune system weakens and people become more susceptible to infections and viruses. A weakened immune system can cause you to need medical attention to fight off infections and viruses you normally wouldn’t have trouble with.
Sleep apnea can also affect your cholesterol levels. Those with sleep apnea were found to have higher LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, and higher triglycerides than those without sleep apnea. The combined effect can contribute to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
High Blood Sugar
Untreated sleep apnea is also linked to elevated blood sugar levels. The higher blood sugar levels can contribute to type 2 diabetes as well as an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Nearly 50% of those with diabetes also suffer from sleep apnea. If you have type 2 diabetes you should be checked for sleep apnea, and if you have sleep apnea, you should be checked for type 2 diabetes.
Get Sleep Apnea Treatment in Miami Beach
Although the dangers of untreated sleep apnea sound scary, they don’t have to be. With sleep apnea treatment in Miami Beach, you can reduce your risk for all these dangers associated with untreated sleep apnea. If you don’t have a sleep apnea diagnosis yet, we can help connect you with a sleep test and physician for diagnosis first. Then, we can provide you with a comfortable sleep apnea treatment. Contact SoBe Dentist today at (305) 535-2225 to book a consultation.