According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea. Almost 80% of cases go undiagnosed, and therefore untreated. There are also many patients who get diagnosed but fail to stick to their treatment plan and therapies. This makes the problem of untreated sleep apnea a significant health concern.
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Sleep apnea directly affects your sleep cycle, causing or exacerbating a hoard of other health problems. Long term sleep loss from untreated sleep apnea can open a can of worms of health complications. Here are some of the direct health consequences of untreated sleep apnea.
The general effects of sleep apnea.
On a nightly basis, untreated sleep apnea causes you to lose sleep as your rest is repeatedly interrupted. This can lead to a dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, headaches, trouble paying attention, irritability, mood swings, and overall tiredness. All of these side effects damage productivity and reduce your quality of life.
Emotional disturbances can be caused by untreated sleep apnea. This situation can also worsen any mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Untreated sleep apnea can cause a number of complications during surgery, including arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) and breathing obstruction . This makes it imperative for sleep apnea sufferers to get their condition under control before any major surgery.
The toll on brain function.
One of the long-term effects of untreated sleep apnea is brain damage . Researchers at the University of California – LA School of Nursing, found that sleep apnea causes a significant change in the levels of two brain chemicals: glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Glutamate is an “accelerator” that is mostly seen when the brain is experiencing stress and anxiety. GABA regulates emotion, thinking, and physical functions such as blood pressure and perspiration. Both of these chemicals influence brain functioning. Changes in their concentration in the brain can impact the day-to-day lives of patients. Also, high levels of glutamate are toxic and can lead to damage in nerves and neurons.
In addition to glutamate and GABA level disruption, untreated sleep apnea patients demonstrate a reduced level of gray matter concentration (or cerebral cortex) in their brains. Gray matter in the human brain is dedicated to information processing. If left untreated, sleep apnea causes progressive brain damage, poor memory, decreased cognitive functioning, and emotional problems.
The toll on metabolism, insulin response, and cardiovascular system.
Sleep apnea is associated independently with type 2 diabetes as it affects your endocrine system. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to the development of insulin resistance, causing your body to fail to respond properly to changing insulin needs. This heightens the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A proper sleep cycle is necessary for a healthy metabolism. If sleep apnea is preventing good sleep, it can contribute to excess weight. While it is important to note that not all sleep apnea patients are overweight, obesity is also closely associated with sleep apnea. Obesity dramatically increases the risk of diabetes as well as cardiovascular issues.
Because sleep apnea is associated with metabolic syndrome and a cluster of heart disease risk factors, it can become a major contributing factor for higher rates of stroke among apnea patients. Patients with sleep apnea are at a higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and reduced lifespans. Patients with sleep apnea also tend to be more prone to having an abnormal heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation. This puts them at higher risk for stroke and heart failure.
The toll on other systems of the body.
Untreated sleep apnea affects almost all the different complex systems in the human body. Because it deprives your respiratory system of oxygen while sleeping, it can worsen asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). You might struggle to exercise and experience shortness of breath in your regular daily routine.
Sleep apnea also increases the probability of developing fatty liver disease, liver scarring, higher-than-normal levels of liver enzymes, and worsens heartburn and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Central sleep apnea disrupts the signals in your brain responsible for breathing. It can also cause neurological symptoms like numbness and tingling. In men, it can lead to a reduced libido, contribute to erectile dysfunction, and negatively impact fertility.
So What’s the good news?
Untreated sleep apnea is a dangerous condition. It is associated with fatal consequences such as stroke and is known to increase the death rate of cancer patients by four times. However, once properly treated, typically using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy and lifestyle changes, you can manage sleep apnea successfully. You don’t have to be a victim of your sleep disorder. When you get treatment for sleep apnea and faithfully follow your therapy, your quality of life and health can improve dramatically.
Many people who fail to stick to their treatment do so because they feel bogged down with the CPAP cleaning process. An unclean CPAP device can be quite detrimental to your health. Because their machine has not been cleaned, they don’t use it. However, there are automated cleaning devices that make the sanitation process much easier, leading to more regular use. Consistent use of a clean, well-maintained machine leads to better sleep and greater health.
If you’re not sure which sanitation device is right for you, you can always contact the trusted and experienced team of sleep apnea experts at Clean CPAP. We will be happy to guide you in getting the most effective and state-of-the-art cleaning system for your CPAP machine.