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Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Those who suspect they have sleep apnea have more than just interrupted sleep and groggy daytimes to motivate them to see a sleep professional. In fact, there are several risk factors at work that beg for a sleep apnea fix.

What are these risks?

Sleep apnea can exacerbate hypertension, or even lead to its onset. The lack of oxygen at night due to sleep apnea’s breathing interruptions causes one’s hormonal system to overwork, elevating one’s blood pressure. Low blood-oxygen levels are also a contributing factor. On the plus side, if one’s sleep apnea is treated, sufferers can often lower or lose their prescribed blood pressure medicine.

The same conditions that cause high blood pressure can also lead to nighttime heart attacks, made worse by the stress on the body by constantly awakening to capture oxygen. Stroke and atrial fibrillation — an irregular heart rhythm — are also at risk due to the same factors.

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), though both conditions can be related to being overweight. Still. there appears to be a connection between the two health issues as at least 80 percent of diabetes sufferers also suffer from some form of sleep apnea.

Automobile accidents are also a known byproduct, as fatigue at the wheel from a totally poor night’s sleep can lead to errors in judgment and even falling asleep while driving.

As with diabetes, asthma seems to be connected to OSA as well. Studies have shown that those who are treated for sleep apnea often also see their asthma attacks diminish.

Likewise, acid reflux, causing heartburn, seems connected to sleep apnea, and those who are treated for acid reflux have reported improvements in their sleep and a lessening of OSA attacks at night.

Finally, perhaps the biggest connection is between being overweight and suffering from sleep apnea. Many who trim down to a more normal body size have reported their OSA symptoms receding or even disappearing.

The bottom line is, if you suspect you suffer from any form of sleep apnea — from mild to chronic — you shouldn’t self-evaluate and self-treat. Rather, seek professional help — for your own sake and for the sake of others who can be affected by your daytime fatigue and lack of focus as a result of sleep deprivation.

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