Many individuals suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder involving paused, irregular, and labored breathing and snoring. If this condition goes untreated, it can create long-term side effects and associated medical risks.
Obstructive sleep apnea, which involves improper relaxation of the throat muscles, causes repeated episodes of partial or complete blockage of the upper airway while sleeping. During one of these obstructive episodes, the body labors to reopen the airway. As a result, breathing resumes with a gasp, choking noise, or body jerk. Because of low oxygen flow to vital organs and unrefreshing sleep, individuals with sleep apnea are at risk for serious complications. Central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing, is also associated with impaired sleep and related health issues.
As a result of impaired sleep, those with sleep apnea usually feel extremely fatigued during the day. This can limit daytime performance at work and increase the likelihood of accidents or injury while performing tasks like driving a car. Sleep deprivation and relational disruption is also common for the sleep partners of people with sleep apnea.
Cardiovascular issues are also common among sleep apnea patients because of elevated blood pressure. To compensate for impaired oxygen flow, the heart’s pumping activity escalates to harmful levels. Obstructive sleep apnea also increases your risk of stroke and brain damage, even if your blood pressure is not high. This condition also creates a higher risk of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and other vascular disease. In contrast, central sleep apnea is usually the result-not the cause-of heart disease.
People with sleep apnea are also more likely to have abnormal liver function and liver scarring. Additionally, they may experience complications after major surgery and when using certain medications. Depression, mood swings, headaches, and sexual dysfunction are also common for sleep apnea patients. Given these complications, sleep apnea is a serious disorder. See your doctor immediately if you spot any warning signs of this condition to ensure effective treatment and to prevent additional medical issues.