DANGERS OF UNTREATED SLEEP APNEA
Untreated sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have devastating effects on the body and mind. Sleep apnea’s most noticeable side effect is leaving the person feeling drowsy and fatigued throughout the day. A person may feel as if he/she is never able to get a good night’s rest no matter how long one “sleeps”. This is because people with sleep apnea stop breathing at night, anywhere from a few seconds up to minutes at a time. Therefore, a person is never able to engage in the deeper levels of sleep, such as the REM and Delta stages.
Sleep apnea causes a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood which causes the heart to pump harder when trying to remove the carbon dioxide. In return, this causes a significant amount of stress on the heart. When untreated, sleep apnea can increase the chances of stroke, high blood pressure, and pulmonary hypertension. Many sleep apnea candidates have high blood pressure due to the extra work the heart has to perform in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen. If the condition is never treated, the strength of the heart begins to deteriorate and the heart pumps blood at a lower force than what the body needs.
Typically the heart is the first organ that experiences and shows signs of untreated sleep apnea. According to Neomi Shah, MD, at Yale University, having untreated sleep apnea for 4-5 years raises a person’s risk of having a heart attack and death by 30%.
While the heart is the most important concern as far as the effects of sleep apnea, other areas of your body and life can be affected as well. Many people who go through life with untreated sleep apnea are far more accident prone than those who have proper sleep at night. This is because sleep apnea patients can wake up hundreds of times per night fighting to catch their breath. They constantly feel tired and have trouble focusing during the day which leads to higher rates of accidents. Patients with sleep apnea have decreased reflex time due to the lack of energy. The reflexes and hand-eye coordination depend greatly on being well rested enough to focus.
There is a growing awareness of sleep apnea contributing to a wide range of health problems. By seeking medical attention and treating sleep apnea, you will not only feel better and more energized, but you’ll also be decreasing the chances of other health problems in the future.
Paul L. Caputo, DDS3490 E Lake Rd S Suite A