Negative Health Effects from Sleep Apnea
By J. Brent Gorrell on January 22, 2014
Roughly 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with over 80 percent of these cases undiagnosed. But even if you are unaware of your sleeping disorder, it can still have detrimental effects on your health and lifestyle. While various methods of treatment are available to combat sleep apnea, patients should first understand its symptoms and risks.
To help our Mountain View patients recognize potential cases of sleep apnea, we offer the following information. If you believe you may suffer from this disorder, consider seeking professional advice and treatment.
Types of Sleep Apnea
The risks of sleep apnea are partially dependent on the type of apnea present. Both variations of this disorder result in interrupted breathing patterns during sleep, but each occurs for different reasons and in different ways:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: As the most common form of sleep apnea, this is caused by partial blockage of the airway during sleep. Contributing factors to this obstruction include a naturally narrow airway, a large neck, nasal congestion, being overweight, or a tongue that relaxes toward the back of the throat. Obstructive sleep apnea is the less dangerous of the two and is more likely to be diagnosed due to its correlation with snoring.
- Central sleep apnea: This form of sleep apnea occurs due to imbalanced signals between the respiratory system and the brain. Breathing is therefore diminished or paused intermittently, lasting up to 30 seconds at a time. Although less common than obstructive sleep apnea, people who suffer from this condition are at a greater risk of more serious health problems.
Common Effects of Sleep Apnea
Effects from sleep apnea depend on the type and severity of the condition. Although patients may experience different symptoms, all forms of sleep apnea have the potential to result in the following:
- Elevated and persistent fatigue throughout the day
- Waking from sleep at abnormal times
- Night sweats
- Sleep interrupted by bedwetting or bathroom use
- Morning headaches
- Morning grogginess
- Mood swings
- Sexual dysfunction
- Depression or irritability
- Difficulty with concentration or memory
- Weight gain
Because many of these effects are caused by poor sleep, sleep apnea should not be diagnosed based on these symptoms alone. For a more accurate diagnosis, refer to the specific effects below and, if appropriate, consult your doctor.
Symptoms Specific to Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most telltale way to identify obstructive sleep apnea is through habitual snoring. In addition, patients may experience drooling or fits of choking during sleep. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, may be another sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Finally, a conscious or unconscious preference for unusual sleep positions - such as getting on one’s hands and knees or extending the neck - may be indicative of someone attempting to correct his or her apnea.
Health Risks of Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea has been linked to elevated risks of health complications, particularly cardiovascular disease. For more severe cases, patients may experience an increase in the following risks:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Hypothyroid disease
- Kidney failure
- Neurological diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s)
Although some treatments can improve one’s quality of sleep, central sleep apnea cannot always be directly treated. Instead, a doctor or cosmetic dentist can recommend ways to alleviate its effects, especially if it is correlated with another condition, such as congestive heart failure.
Learn How to Treat Sleep Apnea
The first step to achieving better sleep is learning how to treat sleep apnea in all its forms. Contact our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Gorrell or to learn more about the treatments we offer for sleep apnea and general dentistry.
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