Cardiovascular Dangers of Sleep Apnea
The most serious dangers associated with sleep apnea are related to cardiovascular problems. When your body stops breathing at night, your brain sends signals to your heart to beat faster and harder to try to send more oxygen to the brain. This can damage your heart and put you at increased risk for:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure or heart attacks
- Heart arrhythmia
- Decreased breath capacity
In addition, snoring dangers include damage to your arteries, atherosclerosis, which can also contribute to your cardiovascular risks.
During sleep, your body performs many important regulatory tasks that impact how your body absorbs and uses energy. Sleep apnea disrupts these processes, resulting in imbalances in your body’s regulatory systems, such as:
- Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
In the case of diabetes, sleep apnea treatment has to be adequate to provide a real difference. Some research suggests that the technical “compliance” for CPAP use may not be adequate to provide improvements in diabetes.
Weight problems also make it difficult to get adequate treatment for sleep apnea. Losing weight is a priority for people with obstructive sleep apnea, but since sleep apnea makes weight loss hard.
Cognitive and Mood Disorders
Your brain is the organ that depends most on restorative sleep, and suffers most from repeated disturbances. If you have sleep apnea, among the first symptoms you notice will be daytime sleepiness, accompanied by a lack of focus, drive, and enjoyment of the things you used to do. This can quickly spiral into depression. You will likely also feel irritability, but may also develop euphoric bouts, too, that may develop into a bipolar disorder.
Lack of focus can put you at risk for car accidents, as many people with sleep apnea fall asleep behind the wheel. You are also at a higher risk of workplace accidents.
Memory suffers significantly if you have sleep apnea. You might notice that you have difficulty remembering things that happened yesterday or years ago. You may also have difficulty with motor memory, so you’ll find it harder to do some of the everyday tasks you used to take for granted.
Sleep Apnea and Cancer
We cannot say with certainty that sleep apnea increases cancer risk. Some studies suggest a strong link between sleep apnea and cancer, while others suggest that there is no increased cancer risk with sleep apnea. Considering the other dangers, it seems likely that sleep apnea does have an influence on cancer risk, and that sleep apnea treatment might help reduce risk.
With all these dangers, it’s important to get your sleep apnea treated early to avoid serious health problems. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, please call (201) 343-4044 or email the River Edge Dental Center for Sleep, TMJ, & Reconstructive Dentistry today for an appointment.