Sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, can have profound effects on your body in both the short term and the long term.
In this blog, the sleep specialists at eos sleep explain what sleep apnea does to your body.
What happens to your body when you have sleep apnea?
When you have this disorder, your airway narrows or is partially blocked during sleep, and you’ll have short, repeated periods where you stop breathing. During this time, you may make gasping or snorting sounds and move your body, but you probably won’t fully wake up. As you resume breathing, you’ll start snoring loudly.
As this is repeated throughout the night, you move from deeper phases of sleep into lighter phases, which prevents you from getting the restorative sleep you need. Your blood oxygen levels also go down, which can make your heart work harder.
What symptoms does this sleep disorder cause?
It can cause one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loud snoring
- Gasping or snorting sounds
- Feeling very sleepy during the day, even after you’ve spent enough time in bed
- Morning headaches
- A sore throat or dry mouth when you wake up
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering
What does sleep apnea do to your body in the long term?
Sleep apnea can have serious negative effects on your health. It can increase your risk of developing the following chronic health issues:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems including heart attacks and abnormal heartbeats
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome – a disorder that includes abnormal cholesterol and an increased waist circumference
- Liver problems – including function issues and signs of scarring (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease)
What should you do if you might have this condition?
Make an appointment with a sleep specialist, who can conduct a sleep study to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of this sleep disorder. This non-invasive test measures and records data about what happens to your body during sleep, including your heart rate, breathing, movements, and more.
If apnea is present, your doctor can then recommend treatment options that can include the following:
- CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) – This is the most common treatment used. A machine is attached to a hose and mask that you wear on your face, and it helps keep your airways open with a low, steady stream of air.
- Oral appliances – These customized plastic mouth guards, which are worn only at night, gently coax your jaw and/or tongue forward to open your airway.
- Surgery – In cases where other treatments aren’t effective, surgery may be considered, especially if a structural abnormality such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps is causing your symptoms.
If you have a chronic snoring problem, take eos sleep’s Berlin Scale to determine your level of risk for sleep apnea.