Long Term Affects of Untreated Sleep Apnea
by Dr. Scott Bolding | Aug. 10, 2021
Do I Need to Treat Sleep Apnea?The effects of leaving sleep apnea untreated can be serious and even fatal. Obstructive sleep apnea is not something you can just ignore and hope it goes away. Sleep apnea does more than just make you tired during the day. It can have long-term consequences, affecting both your body and mind. Good quality sleep is essential for body and brain rebuilding.
In order for your brain to work properly, you need to sleep well. Inside our brains, we have cells called glial cells. These cells function as a filtration system for our brains. Interestingly, the glial cells work primarily while you sleep. When sleep apnea keeps you awake at night, your brain isn’t able to get the filtration it needs. And partial filtration from the glial cells can lead to very serious problems over time. You may begin having a hard time paying attention or thinking clearly during the day, which can lead to accidents at work or while driving. Long-term lack of filtration can lead to dementia and even Alzheimer’s.
Sleep apnea also puts you at a greater risk of a stroke. A study that was published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2014 monitored close to 400 sleep apnea patients over the course of 20 years. It found that cancer rates increased by 2.5% in these patients and that they were four times likelier to have a stroke. The study also discovered that these patients had a death rate that was four times higher than those who did not have sleep apnea.
UCLA’s School of Nursing performed a study which found that people with sleep apnea show changes in the levels of two brain chemicals: glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These chemicals help you handle emotions and regulate blood pressure and perspiration. Significant changes in the levels of these two chemicals can cause damage to the brain.
Sleep Better. Get Your Life Back.
It’s time to get the sleep you deserve. You don’t have to keep on living with the constant daytime sleepiness and other effects of sleep apnea. Schedule a consultation with our sleep apnea specialists today and start getting your life back.
Sleep is also an important part of your physical health. Not sleeping well can have serious consequences for your physical well-being. Since sleep apnea makes it hard to breathe, your body has to work to keep the airway open at night when it should be resting and repairing. This can lead to a weakened immune system, which makes it harder for you to fight diseases.
Patients with OSA are at a greater risk of gaining weight as well. Sleep deprivation decreases the hormone that suppresses your appetite and increases the hormone that stimulates it. This hormone imbalance can increase your cravings for calorie-dense foods. And because of decreased energy caused by lack of sleep, it would be harder for you to work those calories off.
Sleep apnea can also put you at greater risk of:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Liver problems
Not Treating Sleep Apnea is Not an Option
All of this to say, sleep apnea is not a condition to just brush off. If you are experiencing the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, you need to talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist as soon as possible. Once you have been diagnosed with OSA, it’s important to follow the treatment plan laid out for you by your doctor.
Treatment plans will vary depending on the cause of the blockage in your airway. For many patients, weight loss and use of a CPAP machine will go a long way in reducing sleep apnea episodes. Others will need to undergo surgery in order to adjust the jaw and open the airway.