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Often associated with snoring, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can lead to significant mental and physical health problems.

Beyond the Snore: The Hidden Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

by | Jun 14, 2023 | Patient Resources, Sleep Apnea

If you’re struggling to get some sleep, your partner’s snoring can be aggravating. But things start to get scary if they begin gasping for breath or completely stop breathing.

Often associated with snoring, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can lead to significant mental and physical health problems. Its primary characteristic is frequent stopping and starting of your breathing while you sleep.

There are a number of hidden risks associated with sleep apnea when it is left untreated. Smiles from Ear to Hear is here to help you identify and provide solutions for sleep apnea in order to prevent these serious health problems.

3 Main Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea involves repeated stops and starts of your breathing while you sleep. It is often associated with loud snoring and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep.

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form, which occurs when throat muscles relax
  • and block the flow of air into the lungs.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA), which involves improper signaling between the brain and the muscles
  • that control breathing.
  • Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, or complex sleep apnea, which evolves from OSA into
  • CSA while a person is receiving therapy for OSA.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea tends to become an issue for individuals who present various risk factors, like:

  • Excess weight
  • Narrow airway
  • Gender—males have a two to three times
  • greater risk
  • Age—more common in older adults
  • Family history
  • Alcohol, sedative, or tranquilizer use
  • Smoking (three times greater risk)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Medical conditions like congestive heart failure,
  • high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors that can contribute to central sleep apnea include:

It is time to get some quality sleep.
  • Age—middle-aged and older people have a higher risk of CSA
  • Gender—CSA is more common in men than in women
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Opioid and narcotics use
  • Having had a stroke

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea You Should Be Aware Of

The symptoms of OSA and CSA tend to overlap, making it difficult to determine which type you have. Common symptoms of sleep apnea you need to be aware of include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep
  • Gasping for air when sleeping
  • Dry mouth when you awaken
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Hypersomnia, or excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Short attention span while awake
  • Irritability

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Health

Among the most noticeable consequences of a poor night’s sleep due to either type of sleep apnea are daytime fatigue and morning headaches, which are related to the repeated awakenings (whether you are aware of them or not) that occur throughout the night. These interruptions of your sleep cycle prevent you from getting the rest you need and begin to take a toll on your health.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Health

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Among the most noticeable consequences of a poor night’s sleep due to either type of sleep apnea are daytime fatigue and morning headaches, which are related to the repeated awakenings (whether you are aware of them or not) that occur throughout the night. These interruptions of your sleep cycle prevent you from getting the rest you need and begin to take a toll on your health.

Concentration Problems

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In addition to making it difficult to concentrate, daytime fatigue can put you at a higher risk of a motor vehicle, workplace, or in-home accident. Poor performance in school and behavior problems become issues for children and adolescents with sleep apnea as well.

Mental Health Issues

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Mental health issues like becoming quick-tempered, moody, or depressed are common consequences of untreated sleep apnea, which can have a significant effect on your career, your social life, and your relationships.

Problems With Physical Health

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Your physical health can also begin to suffer due to the frequent drops in your blood oxygen levels during sleep, leading to high blood pressure and other heart-related issues. OSA might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, and irregular heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation.

Problems for Others

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Another damaging effect of untreated sleep apnea shows up in sleep-deprived partners. Your loud snoring can contribute to the poor mental and physical health of your partner, not to mention be destructive to your relationship if your condition is not addressed.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed through overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions. These tests can be conducted at home or in a sleep lab.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed through overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions. These tests can be conducted at home or in a sleep lab.

At-Home Testing

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The most common form of sleep apnea testing is a take-home sleep test, which is often preferred because you sleep in your own bed, and it therefore provides more natural results. Home sleep tests are usually a monitor that you put on your wrist before you go to bed.

The monitor is typically preprogrammed to begin recording your sleep cycle at your typical bedtime, and it will measure and record heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns. The results, recorded on a memory card like the one in your cell phone, will be uploaded into a computer program by a sleep technician in order to help with diagnosis.

Nocturnal Polysomnography

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This form of testing takes place in a sleep center or sleep lab. You will be admitted into the sleep center and connected to equipment that monitors your heart, lung, and brain activity; breathing patterns; arm and leg movements; and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.

A nocturnal polysomnography is typically used when central sleep apnea is suspected, because it provides additional information that the take-home test does not. Additionally, at-home monitoring devices sometimes miss sleep apnea, so a polysomnography may be ordered even if your take-home results are within the standard range.

Common Treatment Options

Mild cases of sleep apnea may be addressed through lifestyle changes, like losing weight and changing smoking, drinking, and drug habits; changes to your medications; or by treating nasal allergies and other sinus issues. Moderate to severe sleep apnea may require more advanced treatment options like:

  • CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which applies air pressure that is slightly greater than
  • surrounding air into your airway in order to open it up and prevent apnea and snoring. This is the most
  • common method of addressing OSA.
  • Surgical options, which can include the removal of tonsils and/or adenoids, realignment of the jaw,
  • or palatal implants.
  • Tissue shrinkage and nerve stimulation.
  • Oral appliances designed to keep your throat open. These devices are designed to bring your jaw forward
  • while you sleep, which helps to open the airway to stop sleep apnea.

Smiles from Ear to Hear Provides Sleep Apnea Solutions

Though snoring is irritating, sleep apnea is a more serious condition that can lead to a variety of significant negative health and social consequences if left untreated. Smiles from Ear to Hear provides oral appliances that help open your airway, eliminating your or your partner’s sleep apnea.

Contact us by using the adjacent form to learn more about our available sleep apnea solutions.

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