The Dangerous Consequences of Sleep Apnea

Snoring is annoying and can disrupt your sleep and your significant other’s as well. However, it can have even more severe consequences if you snore and suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea increases your risk of developing dangerous health conditions. However, these problems can be curbed if you seek treatment for your sleep apnea.

What Health Problems Can Arise from Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

It’s important to know what health problems can arise if you have obstructive sleep apnea. These conditions include the following:

  • High Blood Pressure: Sleep apnea can increase your blood pressure. Additionally, if your blood pressure is already on the upper side, it can get worse with obstructive sleep apnea because your body is under stress while you sleep. When your breathing is not proper, the level of oxygen in your blood decreases.
  • Heart Disease: If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you are far more likely to suffer a heart attack. Low oxygen in your blood means your heart receives less oxygen as well. You also experience additional stress during sleep because of frequent waking.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: Around 80 percent of people who have obstructive sleep apnea also have type 2 diabetes. Additionally, being obese increases the risk of suffering from both conditions.
  • Weight Gain: If you have gained a considerable amount of weight, it can also raise your risk of developing sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also makes it more difficult to lose weight. Being overweight or obese means you have more fat in the neck area, which can obstruct your breathing while you sleep.
  • Asthma: Individuals who have obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to develop asthma, a chronic lung disease.
  • Acid Reflux: Many people who have sleep apnea claim to suffer from acid reflux as well.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

If you suffer from sleep apnea, you should seek treatment. Many of the other medical conditions that can develop when you have obstructive sleep apnea can be reduced or eliminated with the right treatment.

One means of treatment your doctor may prescribe is the usage of a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” It is fitted with a hose at the end of which there is a mask. You wear that mask during the night while you sleep and receive oxygen, which can help you to breathe better and can improve your condition overall.

Other forms of treatment include mouth appliances, nerve stimulators, and surgery. It’s important to consult with your doctor to determine which type of treatment is most appropriate for you.

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Sleep Apnea News: What’s Happening Right Now

Wondering what’s happening in the world of sleep apnea and sleep disorders? read on below to see a news roundup of the latest reports.

Profile of Mia Amdur

This profile about a girl living with sleep apnea (the daughter of American Sleep Apnea Association’s (ASAA) chief patient officer Adam Amdur) gives a good idea of what the illness is and the dangers of a severe case. Mia inherited adenoidal face syndrome, or “long face syndrome,” from both parents, and at age two once stopped breathing 27 times during one night. Her case required some plastic surgery to her face and a CPAP mask that gives her air while she sleeps, but thankfully, as a nine-year-old girl she seems to be doing fine.

NFL Star Talks About Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

Three years ago, football star Ryan Jensen’s career was in jeopardy. Despite getting eight hours of sleep per night, he was always tired; he kept losing weight and was so sluggish on the field that he was cut from the Baltimore Ravens. Even his loved ones noticed a change in behavior, as he was always acting angry now. Eventually his wife discovered that he was not breathing while he slept, and a home test revealed that he had sleep apnea. After getting treatment, Jensen credits his diagnosis with saving his career.

Lawsuit Over Workplace Discrimination

Gary Elias, a former employee at the Arizona State University, has filed a case with the Arizona Board of Regents over discrimination for his sleep apnea. Originally his supervisors gave him flexible work hours and allowed him to work from home in order to accommodate his condition, but in December 2014 a new boss revoked them. As a result he says that he “experienced severe daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and significant anxiety,” performed poorly and was eventually fired. The case was filed on August 31 and will have its first pretrial conference in November.

“Zap” Could Replace CPAP as Treatment

A new treatment could help people with severe sleep apnea. Called “Inspire,” this nerve stimulator can be turned on before sleep and then prevents the tongue from blocking the air passage, allowing those with the condition to breathe normally. This would replace the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks which are worn to supply air during sleep; these masks can be difficult to clean, and are cumbersome when one travels. Inspire was approved for use in the United States in 2014, and five-year trials seems to show that users are doing well.

Everyone Can Be Susceptible to Sleep Apnea, Even Celebrities

Last month, details about Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher’s shocking death was finally revealed. The coroner determined that Fisher’s massive heart attack was not only caused by multiple drugs in her system, but that sleep apnea was a contributing factor to the heart attack as well.

At cited in People.com, sleep apnea is rarely a direct cause of death, but it can lead to other potentially fatal health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes and in Carrie’s case, heart attacks. In addition, patients with sleep disorders like Carrie often resort to drugs or alcohol to either assist with sleep or to stay awake during the day, says a 2009 study published online at the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Although using these substances may help in the short term, using too many potentially harmful substances can actually cause long term disturbances in sleep, which in turn, can cause sleep apnea patients to go into relapse. The researchers who conducted the study mentioned above recommend routine screening for sleep problems in subjects with substance abuse because frequent relapse is common. Maybe if Carrie was screened for sleep problems, she would still be alive today.

At this point, we know that actors aren’t invincible to the dangers of sleep apnea. But what about athletes? Yes, even athletes can suffer from sleep apnea as well, just ask Shaquille O’Neal. The retired basketball star shed light on this issue by being featured in a video by Harvard Medical School to spread awareness about the issue. As of this writing, the video has over 1.7 million views on YouTube.

Initially, it was O’Neal’s girlfriend had been insisting he get tested by Dr. Charles Czeisler, director of the division of sleep medicine Harvard Medical School, for sleep apnea. “Sometimes his snoring wakes him up, she says in the video. “It usually happens when he’s on his back. He gets into that deep snore, then he stops. His chest would stop moving and he was not breathing. So I would nudge him to wake him up and he would catch his breath.”

During the study, sleep specialists monitored Shaq’s brain waves by using electrodes attached to his head during an overnight recording. Dr. Czeisler then looked at every second of the study, and came to the conclusion that Shaq had moderate sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is normally treated by lifestyle adjustments, like eating healthier, losing weight, exercise and certain breathing devices. Given Shaq’s excellent health, he was recommended a CPAP mask for treatment, which increases positive air pressure in the throat so airways don’t collapse during breathing.

If celebrities like Carrie Fisher and Shaquille O’Neal aren’t invincible to this disease, then no one is! So what’s the moral of the story? If you have a history of substance abuse to treat your sleep problems or you have a bed partner that frequently complains about your snoring, then maybe it’s time you checked for sleep apnea!