Overlooking sleep apnea can affect your general health, because the consequences of untreated sleep apnea often impact more than just your sleep quality. The disorder may increase your risk for other health conditions such as high blood pressure and even depression. Here are five conditions that are closely related to sleep apnea.
Increased Blood Pressure
There are different forms of sleep apnea—including obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Mayo Clinic reports that both of these types of sleep apnea can cause a rise in blood pressure during sleep.
“Sleep apnea affects brain structures that control blood pressure,” Holly Schiff, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“The amount of oxygen in your blood being transported to your brain is reduced, which puts you at risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke,” Schiff explains.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) notes that sleep apnea is associated with coronary heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and heart attack.
“Sleep apnea even affects the shape of your heart. Those with sleep apnea tend to have enlarged hearts on one side, thickened walls, and a reduced pump function,” Schiff adds.
According to the NINDS, while there is no cure for sleep apnea, successful treatment can lower the risk of heart and blood pressure complications.
“71% of people with type 2 diabetes may have sleep apnea, according to five large studies looking at a total of 1,200 patients,” Chelsie Rohrscheib, PhD, head sleep specialist and neuroscientist at Wesper, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Cleveland Clinic notes that when you have irregular breathing during sleep, the carbon dioxide level in your blood increases. In those with diabetes, this can lead to insulin resistance, which causes the body to become unable to use insulin effectively. A rise in blood sugar level could result.
Additionally, a lack of proper sleep may lead to reduced motivation to exercise or plan meals, which may further worsen diabetes.
A 2017 article published by Sleep Medicine and Disorders notes that there is a linear correlation between obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. With obesity, fat deposits in the upper respiratory tract can constrict the airway, creating less room for air and oxygen to enter the body. There is also lowered muscle activity in the airway area, which contributes to the development of sleep apnea.
“Sleep apnea disrupts your metabolism and may alter the levels of hormones that regulate your appetite, which may lead to individuals eating more. Since it also fragments your sleep, it may reduce daytime energy and physical activity,” Schiff adds.
Depression and Anxiety
“Sleep is key to helping our brains and neurological system recharge,” Carlos M. Nunez, MD, chief medical officer at ResMed, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“Untreated sleep apnea causes you to lose sleep, and without proper sleep, it can take a toll on mental health, resulting in depression or anxiety,” Nunez says.
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