How Untreated Sleep Apnea affects the body
Untreated Sleep Apnea
For starters, the definition of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that occurs when your airway partially or completely closes while you are asleep, depriving you of oxygen. The most popular method of treating sleep apnea is CPAP therapy, which uses pressurized air to keep your airways open while you sleep.
OSA is one of the most common forms of sleep apnea. The other two types of sleep apnea are Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and Complex or Mixed Sleep Apnea, which is frequently referred to as CompSA to prevent confusion as it would have the same acronym as Central Sleep Apnea.
How serious is Sleep Apnea
Both quantity and quality of sleep are crucial. If you have untreated sleep apnea, your body may repeatedly wake you up to breathe, even though you may plan to sleep for eight hours or more and even believe that you are getting that much sleep. As a result, your sleep is broken up into teeny-tiny chunks, each too small to let you smoothly transition through all the stages of sleep.
You miss out on crucial physiological processes that let your body regulate itself, organize and consolidate memory, and repair bone and tissue damage if you can’t go through all the REM and non-REM sleep stages uninterruptedly.
What happens if Sleep Apnea is Left Untreated?
Sleep apnea can result in several significant medical complications if it is not managed. Here, it’s crucial to keep in mind the distinction between a risk factor and a symptom. A symptom is the immediate impact a condition has on you, but a risk factor is a condition you may have that could increase your likelihood of developing another one. Therefore, nocturnal sleep debt is a sign of OSA whereas high blood pressure is a risk factor.
Impacts on your sinuses and heart health are two serious side effects of not treating sleep apnea. Because of nasal obstructions or other sinus-related problems, people with untreated OSA frequently end up breathing through their mouths. A dry mouth may result from this. A dry mouth, which results in foul breath, gum disease, and other oral health issues, can be brought on by this. Your sinuses are immediately impacted when you don’t get enough sleep. The body loses a lot of the nose’s natural disease-fighting, anti-inflammatory cells.
Is Untreated Sleep Apnea Fatal?
Simply put, sleep apnea can lead to death if left untreated. But in truth, those risk factors are more likely to cause your death than sleep apnea itself. There are well-known instances of celebrities who passed away yet whose autopsies revealed that the cause of death was not sleep apnea itself but rather a risk factor condition. Actress Carrie Fisher and retired football player Reggie White are two examples of this.
In persons who have passed away, key disorders that are frequently associated to sleep apnea include:
- Cardiac Disorders: People who also suffered sleep apnea have been documented to die from heart attacks, arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation (a-fib), and myocardial infarctions.
- Mental health problems and Mood Disorders: the signs of anxiety and depression are common in OSA patients, especially women
Mental Health and Sleep Apnea
According to studies, sleep disruption, and low oxygen levels may interfere with neurochemical processes and prevent the frontal lobe of the brain from controlling emotions. The good news is that CPAP therapy can significantly lessen sadness and anxiety symptoms in those who have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea in children is frequently confused with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Undiagnosed sleep apnea in children can cause them to act out in class, have trouble focusing and paying attention, and have a hard time controlling their emotions. Children with sleep apnea may appear to exhibit the opposite behavior: edginess and hyperactivity, but adults with sleep apnea may describe persistent fatigue and daytime exhaustion. The negative effects of untreated sleep apnea may be improved or resolved with treatment.
However, those connections are more difficult to prove, especially when it comes to Central Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea is also linked to epilepsy and seizures. CSA occurs when the brain fails to instruct throat muscles to contract, making breathing difficult. Differentiating CSA from seizures is challenging as both involve a lack of signals from the brain.
Weight Gain and Sleep Apnea
Ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that regulate appetite, have long been associated in studies between lack of sleep and weight gain. Particularly, people with untreated sleep apnea frequently have higher than normal levels of these two hormones.
Sleep apnea left untreated will increase your appetite. This can raise your risk of binge eating, weight gain, and eventually worsening OSA owing to an increase in BMI. Ghrelin and leptin levels can, however, be brought more closely to normal with a regular CPAP therapy routine.
This relationship also involves your endocrine system and bone metabolism. According to research, sleep disorders and sleep apnea affect the remodeling of bones, which might cause osteoporosis in women. Several hormones, including leptin and melatonin (the hormone that controls circadian rhythms), are implicated in bone resorption and repair. Untreated sleep apnea can influence the levels and functions of these hormones, which can lower bone density, especially in older persons.
Heart Conditions and Sleep Apnea
A cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat, may happen in people with untreated sleep apnea. Studies suggest that changes in chest cavity pressure may impact the heart, although the exact mechanism is unclear.
Atrial fibrillation, also referred to as a-fib, is another well-known heart ailment that affects untreated sleep apnea. The four chambers of the heart have a typical electrical current route. The rhythmic heartbeat is maintained by this current. Your heartbeat becomes erratic, which is referred to as A-fib. A fib causes blood clots to form and collect in the wrong places. This hinders the heart from pumping blood properly between its chambers. The clots can disintegrate and travel to organs like the brain, leading to a stroke.
Untreated Sleep Apnea and sudden cardiac death have been linked in multiple studies. OSA increases the risk of sudden cardiac death, particularly when oxygen saturation levels dropped below 78 percent. Those with OSA have a risk of sudden cardiac death between 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. that’s over 2.5 times higher than those without the disorder.
Over time, the added strain that high blood pressure places on the heart might raise the chance of experiencing a heart attack. One strategy to help stop serious heart problems is to keep your blood pressure under control.
You experience more than just fatigue if your sleep apnea is untreated. Untreated Sleep Apnea harms your health, disrupts vital processes and shortens longevity. Consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.