Lots of people don’t even realize they have sleep apnea; in fact, it’s been estimated by the American Sleep Apnea Association that there are 22 million Americans with the disorder but 80% of them are undiagnosed. Unfortunately, the longer you have untreated sleep apnea, the more of a devastating effect it’ll have on your body. Here are 5 long-term consequences you could suffer if you don’t start getting a good night’s rest.
1. Constant Fatigue and Sleepiness
One of the main problems caused by sleep apnea is that it causes you to frequently wake up during the night (with each awakening being so brief that you might not even remember). When your slumber is constantly being interrupted like this, you’ll never reach the later, restorative stages of the sleep cycle. As a result, you’ll often feel extremely drowsy or fatigued during the day. This makes it much harder to concentrate and increases the risk of having an accident while working or driving. Students with sleep apnea often do poorly in school and may exhibit behavioral problems.
2. Heart Problems
Irregular breathing causes the oxygen levels in your blood to drop suddenly, increasing your blood pressure and putting strain on your heart. Many sleep apnea patients develop hypertension, putting them at risk for heart attacks, heart failures and strokes; the more severe the disorder, the higher the risk of a life-threatening cardiovascular issue.
3. Complications with Medication or During Surgery
There are some medications, such as narcotic analgesics, that can make sleep apnea worse by relaxing your upper airway. Sedatives and general anesthetics used during surgery can cause similar problems, especially if you were lying on your back the whole time. Patients who already have sleep apnea or have been experiencing sleep apnea symptoms should tell their doctor or dentist before a procedure so that appropriate measures can be taken.
4. Eye Problems
It’s been noted that a lot of eye-related health issues are common among sleep apnea patients. For example, a lack of oxygen in the blood can damage the optic nerve and cause glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. Fortunately, eye problems can usually be treated.
5. Sleep Deprived Partners
You might not be the only one who’s not getting enough rest. Sleep apnea often causes loud snoring that can keep your partner up at night. Many partners end up suffering from sleep deprivation themselves; they might even decide to go to another room.
The above issues can have obviously have a large negative impact on the quality of your life. If you notice the symptoms of sleep apnea (being told you snore, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating) call your dentist right away to ask about sleep apnea treatment. It could help you get a good night’s sleep again – and it might even save your life.
About the Author
Dr. Matthew Nawrocki got his Doctor of Dental Medicine from the University of Florida College of Dentistry. In addition to regular preventive care, his practice in Orange Park also offers oral appliance therapy for patients with sleep apnea. If you think disordered breathing has been interrupting your slumber, make an appointment with Dr. Nawrocki by visiting his website or calling (904) 272-1588.