The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects an estimated 25 million Americans. Because it occurs during sleep, many people are unaware that they have a problem. If you have this sleep disorder, or have symptoms of it, you need treatment to reduce the risk of serious health complications.

Our ENT physicians at Southern ENT want you to know the dangers of untreated sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is about more than just snoring. It affects many body systems and can have long-term consequences for your health. 

A danger in your sleep

When your head hits the pillow for a night of sleep, you may assume that you drift off into a dream world. 

But if you have sleep apnea, instead of getting restful sleep, your breathing stops repeatedly without you realizing it. This disrupts your sleep and causes a surge of physiological processes that prevent you from getting the restorative rest your body needs.

When severe, pauses in breathing can happen hundreds of times a night. Each time you stop breathing, your body is deprived of oxygen. If you have sleep apnea you may experience:

There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It occurs when the airway is temporarily blocked. In central sleep apnea, the brain fails to tell the lungs to breathe. 

Obesity raises the risk for sleep apnea

Carrying excess body fat is strongly linked to sleep apnea, and most people with sleep apnea are overweight or obese

When you’re overweight, body fat accumulates in various areas of your body, including your neck. This excess neck fat causes the airway to collapse when you relax during sleep.

For those who are overweight, losing weight is essential for treating or preventing sleep apnea. People who have excess fat around their neck and upper abdomen are particularly prone to developing sleep apnea. 

Elevated blood pressure

Sleep apnea triggers a rise in blood pressure, and the more severe your sleep apnea, the larger the increase in blood pressure. 


Sleep apnea can even mess with your mood and mental health. If you have sleep apnea, you’re at a significantly higher risk of depression. 

The disturbances of oxygen saturation in the blood can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals that regulate mood. What’s more, symptoms like fatigue and trouble concentrating can drop your mood.

Type 2 diabetes

Sleep is a crucial time that your body uses to regulate a wide range of hormones. Sleep apnea can wreak havoc on your hormones. Sleep apnea is linked to insulin resistance, reduced glucose tolerance, and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. 

Heart attack and stroke

Sleep apnea takes an especially high toll on your heart. It increases the risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeat. If you have heart disease, you’re at risk of sudden death from repeated episodes of low oxygen.

Identifying and treating sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can range from mild to severe, and even mild cases of sleep apnea can threaten your health. Treatment is especially important if you have other health issues such as heart disease.

A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure machine, is the main treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP machine pumps humidified air through your nose at a pressure that keeps your airway open. This treatment is very effective at preventing pauses in your breathing while sleeping.

Don’t put off getting help if you have sleep apnea. We can order a sleep study, and treatment can begin once you have a formal diagnosis. 

We have clinics located throughout southern Louisiana, in Thibodaux, Houma, Raceland, Morgan City, New Iberia, and Youngsville. Call the nearest office to schedule a visit with a Southern ENT provider today.

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