Have you recently been told that you snore loudly? It could be a symptom of a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. Snoring is not always a sign of sleep apnea, but it is better to be safe than sorry. It is not uncommon for patients to not know that they have sleep apnea. So, getting a sleep study could be valuable for your health.
There could be potential danger lurking while you sleep. Unfortunately, you can’t be sure you don’t have sleep apnea unless you get tested, especially if you are showing symptoms. Besides snoring, there are other signs of sleep apnea that you should look out for. For example, you could have sleep apnea if you frequently wake feeling unrested, irritable, or have difficulty staying awake or paying attention. A dry mouth when waking is another indicator of sleep apnea.
Knowing that you have sleep apnea is only one part of the equation. It is not uncommon for patients to forego CPAP machines or other treatments. Not treating sleep apnea can be incredibly dangerous.
Dangerous Effects of Sleep Apnea
It is possible to have mild sleep apnea, which means the symptoms won’t be as intense. However, moderate to severe sleep apnea can create numerous problems for your health.
According to several studies, sleep apnea can result in heart problems. High blood pressure and heart disease are common among patients with sleep apnea. When the oxygen levels in your blood drop rapidly, your heart has to work harder to keep your body regulated. The strain that your heart undergoes disrupts the efficiency of your heart. This stress can also increase your blood pressure.
Weakened Immune System
If we encounter a situation that is dangerous, our bodies naturally go into “fight-or-flight.” It is our brain’s defense against outside threats. The body will release hormonal and nerve signals to protect itself. Think of it as a bodily alarm system, but instead of sirens, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol.
During periods of stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol–the stress hormone. Cortisol reduces certain bodily functions in order to operate more efficiently. You may be more familiar with adrenaline, a hormone that makes your heart race. Additionally, adrenaline will give you a surge of energy.
When you go without breathing for long periods of time, your body undergoes stress to wake itself. Your body panics because you aren’t receiving enough oxygen. So, it releases these hormones because it senses a threat. Over time, this can actually weaken your immune system. A damaged immune system makes it difficult to recover from illnesses and surgeries. Additionally, you may find yourself getting sick more often.
While it may seem extreme, death is a potential complication of sleep apnea. It is not likely that the disordered breathing from sleep apnea will kill you. However, the other complications that it causes can result in death. For example, patients with sleep apnea are more likely to suffer from heart attacks or strokes.