Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when the muscles in the throat relax, causing a partial or complete blockage of the airway. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is less common and is caused by the brain’s failure to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Both types of sleep apnea can have significant health consequences.
Health risks associated with sleep apnea
- Heart disease: Sleep apnea is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and heart attacks. The intermittent oxygen deprivation and increased stress on the cardiovascular system can lead to inflammation and high blood pressure, contributing to heart problems.
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib): Sleep apnea increases the risk of developing AFib, an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.
- Emotional health: Sleep apnea can negatively impact emotional well-being, leading to irritability, mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
- Longevity: Sleep apnea can shorten life expectancy due to the associated health risks and the strain it puts on the body.
- Sudden death: Severe sleep apnea increases the risk of sudden cardiac death, as the stress on the heart and fluctuations in blood oxygen levels can trigger fatal heart rhythms.
- Psychological issues: Sleep apnea can impair cognitive function, memory, and attention, leading to difficulties with concentration and decision-making.
Sleep apnea treatment options
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure): The most common treatment for sleep apnea, CPAP involves wearing a mask over the nose and/or mouth that delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the airway open during sleep.
- BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure): Similar to CPAP, but with two different pressure settings (one for inhalation and one for exhalation), making it more comfortable for some users.
Getting tested for sleep apnea
A sleep study (polysomnography) is typically performed in a sleep lab or at home to diagnose sleep apnea. It involves monitoring brain waves, heart rate, breathing patterns, and blood oxygen levels during sleep.
Negative consequences of snoring
- Relationship strain: Loud snoring can disrupt the sleep of a bed partner, leading to tension and potential relationship issues, including divorce.
- Psychosis: Chronic sleep deprivation caused by snoring or sleep apnea can contribute to the development of psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.
- Shortened life: As mentioned earlier, sleep apnea and its associated health risks can lead to a reduced life expectancy.
- Stroke and heart attack: Sleep apnea and snoring can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack due to their impact on the cardiovascular system.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and treatment recommendations.