Sleep apnea is one of the more underdiagnosed and undertreated conditions among Americans. Many people may be suffering from various symptoms having no idea that the root of the problem is due to poor sleep quality caused by sleep apnea.
Millions of Americans are affected by this chronic condition with at least 9 percent of women and 24 percent of men not getting a good night’s sleep. It is estimated that as many as 80 percent of people who have unsatisfactory sleep have not yet been diagnosed with it.
The most common cause of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea/Hypopnea Syndrome (OSAHS) caused by the repetitive closing of a person’s airway – the trachea – while they are asleep.
Apnea means the seconds (more than 10 seconds) when breathing stops because of the obstructed movement of air while hypopnea are seconds of abnormal and decreased breathing due to obstruction.
The trouble with sleep apnea is that many people are failing to recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea or more likely, are unmotivated to get it diagnosed and treated. That is a mistake. There are many dangers of untreated sleep apnea and it should be taken seriously. Here are 7 of the best reasons motivating you not to delay in getting this disorder treated:
1. You will wake up feeling more refreshed
Having sleep apnea affects the quality of sleep a person gets each night. During a sleep apnea event, oxygen is physically blocked by relaxed tissues in the upper respiratory system, preventing it from reaching the lungs. This forces the brain to wake itself up from certain stages of sleep to signal the body to increase respiratory effort to splint open the airway. This repeated “waking up of the brain” can occur many times during the night. This means the brain never really gets adequate rest resulting in feeling excessively tired upon waking.
By treating sleep apnea, the brain is not interrupted throughout the night so it can achieve the rest it requires allowing you to feel more awake and alert the next day.
2. Your partner gets a better night’s sleep
If you have a partner in bed with you each night, sleep apnea is not all about you. That other person next to you will also suffer from lost sleep. The loud, disruptive snoring or the tossing and turning of a restless sleeper is enough to make anyone seek out separate sleeping arrangements. It can also be frightening for your partner if you have more moderate to severe sleep apnea which can lead to long pauses in breathing followed by choking or gasping sounds to start breathing again.
Many partners of people with sleep apnea will lose sleep over the anxiety it creates for them. If your own quality of sleep isn’t reason enough to get treatment, at least think about the sleep loss and anxiety it is causing for the one next to you in bed.
3. Think about your long term health
It’s not just your sleep that is affected by untreated sleep apnea. Your health and even your life depend on seeking treatment. There are many, many studies showing the illnesses and medical problems directly related to anyone who has untreated sleep apnea, which include the following:
· Heart disease
· Heart failure
· Heart arrhythmias
· Increased blood pressure
4. Reduces morning headaches
A common symptom of sleep apnea is waking up with a morning headache. Disruptions in breathing during the night causes two things to occur: the carbon dioxide levels in your blood go up, and the oxygen levels in your blood go down. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream cause the blood vessels in the head and brain to dilate leading to vascular headaches.
Usually these headaches go away within half an hour after waking as regular breathing returns the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen levels to normal. But, why suffer from morning headaches if you don’t have to by getting your sleep apnea treated?
5. You will experience better performance at work or school
Constant sleep deprivation takes a toll. When troubles at night with sleep are spilling over into your daily living affecting the quality of your work at your job or in academics, it’s time to get it treated.
Think of it in this way: when you are chronically tired, you are more likely to make mistakes, have trouble recalling important information, have trouble paying attention and even lack the motivation to want get work done. The best way to prevent these problems is to get your sleep apnea treated.
6. Reduces your risk of being in an accident
Ever heard of drowsy driving? Lapses in attention while performing an important task such as driving when sleep deprived can result in actual disasters possibly affecting other innocent people. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is estimated to be responsible for 2.5% of fatal crashes and 2% of crashes causing injury.
Even some disasters in history have been attributed to lack of sleep including the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the Challenger explosion, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
For the safety of yourself and others, have your sleep health checked out.
7. Avoid complications with medications and surgery
Having undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea can put you at risk when taking certain medications or undergoing general anesthesia during surgeries. Medications such as sedatives and narcotic analgesics as well as general anesthesia can further relax your upper airways making your sleep apnea symptoms worse.
If you have or suspect you have sleep apnea, you must let you doctor and anesthesiologist know beforehand so the proper measures can be taken to avoid complications during surgery.