It’s Not Just Snoring: The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Adequate sleep is key to overall health and well-being. A disturbance in sleep duration or sleep quality can wreak havoc on your health. It’s estimated that 25 million adults in the United States have sleep apnea, a condition that causes frequent but brief pauses in breathing.

Many adults who have sleep apnea remain unaware that they have the condition. Snoring is one of the most common symptoms. Some people with sleep apnea don’t snore at all, but sleep apnea doesn’t simply cause snoring. The condition affects many aspects of your health. Read on to learn what our medical team at Southern ENT want you to know about how sleep apnea may affect your health.

Importance of quality sleep

When you shut your eyes for a good night’s sleep, there’s more than dreaming going on. Your body regulates important body systems and repairs itself while you’re sleeping. For instance, sleep is involved in repairing your heart and blood vessels.

Sleep affects nearly every tissue in your body. Your brain, lungs, immune system, and metabolism rely on adequate sleep to function properly.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing briefly during sleep. People with sleep apnea have frequent pauses in their breathing throughout the night. 

There are several types of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, the airflow to and from your lungs becomes interrupted. This can happen when your throat muscles block your airway during sleep.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

What puts you at risk for sleep apnea?

At Southern ENT, we often find that it takes our patients by surprise to learn that excess weight is a major risk factor. As your body mass index (BMI) increases, so does your risk of developing sleep apnea. 

Excess body weight increases the pressure in your upper airways. Fatty deposits reduce neuromuscular control and cause your airways to intermittently collapse, making it more difficult to breathe. 

Other risk factors for sleep apnea are:

Men are more at risk for sleep apnea than women, and your risk for sleep apnea increases as you age.

The dangers of sleep apnea

Untreated sleep apnea can cause serious health problems. If you have sleep apnea, treatment can lower your risk for certain chronic diseases.

Hypertension and heart disease

Sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure. When you stop breathing briefly while sleeping, your oxygen levels temporarily decline. Sudden drops in oxygen that occur during sleep apnea increase your blood pressure and put a strain on your circulatory system. When your oxygen levels get low, your body reacts by sending a signal that causes your blood vessels to constrict.

Sleep apnea and high blood pressure are both linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Diabetes

Sleep apnea is linked to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Up to an estimated 83% of people with Type 2 diabetes may have undiagnosed sleep apnea. If you have diabetes, sleep apnea may make it more difficult to manage your blood sugar, but sleep apnea treatment may improve diabetes. 

If you have diabetes, you should consider a sleep study to evaluate the quality of your sleep. This is especially true if you’re overweight.  

We offer many treatment options for sleep apnea. When you visit us at Southern ENT for sleep apnea treatment, we conduct a comprehensive evaluation and work with you to put together a treatment plan. Treatment depends on the results of your evaluation and may include making lifestyle changes to wearing a mouthguard at night to keep your airways open.

In some cases, a procedure to alter the anatomy of your nose or throat is necessary to remove the obstruction and improve your airways. Treatment may involve removing large tonsils, reducing nasal structures, such as the turbinates, or straightening the cartilage in your nose to correct a deviated septum.

If you snore and feel tired throughout the day, it’s possible that you may have sleep apnea. Treatment can not only help you feel and function better, but it can improve your health and lower your risk for diseases. For more information on sleep apnea treatment at Southern ENT, call our nearest office or use our online form to request an appointment. 

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