It is unfortunate that sleep apnea dangers claim many lives annually. Approximately 800,000 drivers in the US were involved in sleep apnea related traffic accidents in the year 2000. Furthermore, about 70% of the patients with moderate sleep apnea took their condition lightly and faced 3 times greater risk of stroke in 2015.
Sleep apnea can have many serious short and long term health risks if left untreated, including:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart disease/heart attack
- Type 2 diabetes
- Driving and work-related accidents
Yup. Now you know. It’s THAT dangerous!
This is not to scare you but to actually make you aware regarding sleep apnea dangers and to help you take relevant steps to control or stop it. Yes, sleep apnea can be controlled and treated. Leaving it untreated can be utterly dangerous. This is because in sleep apnea, the brain undergoes repeated moments of suffocating.
In popular culture, snoring is viewed as funny, and people often laugh when a snoring person lets out a sudden explosive snort. The reality is this loud snort is often the person gasping for air, as the brain is not getting enough oxygen.
Now it’s important to understand that sleep is a critically important component of human existence. On average, humans spend about 25% to 35% of their lives sleeping. Sleep allows both the body and brain to rest and recover from the stress of daily life. As such, trouble sleeping can cause a range of health problems, and if left untreated, dire consequences. A good night’s sleep is the “recovery period” for a human body; an instant health booster and a natural way to strengthen the immune system. It refers to the time your body practically “takes a break’ and prepares itself to protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
People with sleep apnea get none of that. It becomes increasingly dangerous when sleep apnea becomes uncontrollable.
But why are sleep apnea dangers such an important issue to address?
Dangers of Uncontrolled Sleep Apnea
Does anyone remember how sleep apnea took Carrie Fisher’s life?
Wait, What? How?
Carrie Fisher’s death was a grim reminder of the dangers of sleep apnea and well, we should all take it seriously.
Sleep apnea disrupts circadian rhythms, imbalances body and brain chemistry, interrupts cardiac and respiratory function, elevates blood pressure, and speeds up the heart’s rate. This is exactly what happened to Carrie Fisher. Medical examination on Fisher's body three days after her death revealed sleep apnea played a role in Fisher's death.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It is categorized as the state in which the body experience low blood-oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream leading to surges in blood pressure, oxidative stress to the walls of the heart, and disruptions to the heart’s electrical rhythms. This disruption can cause a cardiac arrest and other complications that a person might or might not recover from.
If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night's sleep, you might have to acquaint them with sleep apnea dangers. Snoring can have causes that aren't due to underlying disease. Examples include nasal congestion, anatomic variation of the nose and soft palate, or alcohol consumption. However in the case of sleep apnea, understanding why you snore and feel uneasy is CRITICAL.
The main types of sleep apnea are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome
The first one is the most common type. It occurs when throat muscles relax while the latter two occur when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing or when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea respectively.
In any case, nonetheless, prompt action is important. What actions though?
Time To Wake Up!
The first action to take against sleep apnea dangers is to WAKE UP. Yes.
By that we mean you need to stop slacking and see a sleep specialist right away.
A sleep specialist/therapist can help you determine your need for tests. The sleep apnea tests involve overnight monitoring at a sleep center of your breathing and other body functions during sleep.
For people with mild sleep apnea, dangers are less. Their doctor may recommend only lifestyle changes including weight loss or quitting smoking. Doctors may also recommend getting checked for nasal allergies and their respective treatments.
If these measures don't improve your symptoms and your sleep apnea starts getting worse, here is what you need:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, you might benefit from using a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep. With CPAP, the air pressure is somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air and is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring.
Airway pressure devices:
For people who do not find CPAP machine useful, using a different type of airway pressure device that automatically adjusts the pressure while you're sleeping (auto-CPAP) can be better. It is because automatic devices provide more pressure when you inhale and less when you exhale.
For patients struggling with sleep apnea, oral appliances are a way out too. An oral appliance designed to be worn by the patient has the ability to keep the throat open.This is done by bringing the jaw forward, which can sometimes relieve snoring and keep the patient from gasping for air. These oral appliances are easier to use and are readily available in the market.
Just so you know, research has revealed that regular use of CPAP or sleep apnea aiding devices can reduce blood pressure of patients and improve their wakefulness and energy levels during the day.
People with sleep apnea using devices that help overcome the problem usually report improved quality of life. In some observational studies that compare people with apnea who use sleep apnea treatment devices versus those who don’t, the former seem to have lower risk of stroke and heart attack and lower blood glucose as compared to the latter.
If you, or someone you know is snoring while also having silent breathing pauses then HELP for sleep apnea is what they need. The choking or gasping sounds you or someone you know makes while sleeping is nothing to be taken lightly. It can be sleep apnea that might as well kill you in your sleep.
So, STOP it before it reaches a point where your life is in DANGER. Talk to a sleep therapist or turn to sleep apnea therapy through devices and medication to overcome this uncontrolled menace and keep the sleep apnea dangers at bay.