Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that affects millions of people in the U.S. alone. Many people consider snoring to be a tolerable nuisance, but don't realize that the snoring can be a symptom of a much greater issue. If left untreated, sleep apnea health risks can result in major health problems.
Lots of people who have sleep apnea don't even realize they're suffering with this disease. It's difficult to diagnose, and it's often noticed by a bed partner or another family member first. A person suffering from sleep apnea can be jolted from sleep literally dozens of times per night, making it impossible to get any restful sleep.
Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up choking or gasping for breath, waking up with a headache all the time, feeling tired in the middle of the day, and a lack of ability to concentrate on tasks. Irritability and depression can also be symptoms of sleep apnea. Many people who have sleep apnea may also snore.
There are many causes of sleep apnea, but some of the more common ones include having a body structure that could encourage the closing off of the airway during sleep, such as a large tongue or enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Sleep apnea is also much more common in obese people.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this disease, and it is associated with a whole host of serious medical issues. Sleep apnea has been proven to increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels and even obesity.
Because sleep apnea is so hard to diagnose, oftentimes patients are treated for a whole range of conditions before the discovery of sleep apnea is made. For instance, people with resistant high blood pressure are often treated with 3 or 4 different types of medication before sleep apnea is diagnosed.
Sleep apnea can also play a role in weight gain. What's more, sleep apnea makes it almost impossible to lose weight. Individuals suffering from sleep apnea are chronically tired, which makes avoiding exercise an easy thing to do. This cycle is hard to break out of. The less exercise a person gets, the more weight they're apt to gain, which will only serve to make the sleep apnea even worse.
One hazard that people seldom think about regarding sleep apnea is the increased risk of accidents, particularly automobile accidents. Driving with a lack of sleep is very dangerous, and studies have shown that there is just as great a chance of being in an accident when drowsy as there is when driving under the influence of alcohol.
If you find yourself feeling tired during the day, are moody or irritable, or seem to be waking up with a headache frequently, there may be more to it than just a poor night's sleep. There are tests that can be done for sleep apnea, and this is a very treatable condition. Speak with your health care professional if you think you have any sleep apnea symptoms.