Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops and starts breathing several times during a normal sleep occurrence. It can be indicated by loud snoring and/or feeling fatigued even after a full night’s rest. The Cedar Valley Center for ENT, Sinus & Allergy, with a main office in Waterloo, Iowa and several community outreach locations, and ENT specialist Dr. David J. Congdon are experienced in treating all forms of sleep apnea, including:
Sleep Apnea: Nighttime Dangers, Everyday Effects
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- This occurs when breathing is blocked by excess soft tissue in the throat as muscles relax, causing a narrowing of your airway and the lowering of your blood oxygen level. Awakened by their brains telling them that they need oxygen, these sleep apnea sufferers often are roused from sleep while choking or gasping for air. This process can repeat several times an hour during a given sleep cycle, with patients not even knowing this happens.
- Central sleep apnea
- This type of sleep apnea is where the brain and the breathing muscles are unconnected and a person does not take in air for a period of time. As with obstructive sleep apnea, those with central sleep apnea will sometimes awaken with shortness of breath or often struggle to sleep.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome
- The hallmark of this condition is simultaneously suffering from obstructive and central sleep apnea.
People who are overweight or obese, who have smaller airways in their throats or enlarged tonsils or adenoids, who are male and/or older, who are smokers or who experience frequent nasal congestion, or who have current heart conditions or who have experienced a stroke are all at risk for these types of sleep apnea. And while the condition has been linked to many other disorders and health issues, there are several primary dangers arising from, or contributed to by, sleep apnea, which include:
- Heart Conditions
- Repeatedly stopping, and restarting, your breathing during sleep, as occurs for someone with sleep apnea, places a significant strain on a person’s heart, as drastic decreases in blood oxygen levels raise blood pressure. By making this risk of hypertension greater, sleep apnea makes it more likely that you will experience a heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats (including sudden death).
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Insulin resistance is a condition where a person’s insulin levels cause his or her blood sugar to rise, making type 2 diabetes more likely. Sleep apnea has been linked to the development of insulin resistance, as the shortage of oxygen it causes ignites the body’s insulin use, helping build up the insulin resistance that leads to type 2 diabetes.
- Liver Issues
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) covers a spectrum of liver-related issues that primarily deal with an excess of fat within the liver that often leads to liver inflammation, scarring and, in the most serious cases, liver failure. Sleep apnea is a risk factor for this disease, and it is notable that people with NAFLD and sleep apnea are also often obese. Specifically, the absence of oxygen experienced during sleep apnea spells results in an acceleration of NAFLD in patients.
- Fatigue and Exhaustion
- Sleep apnea can dramatically inhibit the normal activities of those afflicted with the condition, as sufferers often find themselves feeling drowsy or moody, or falling asleep, during the day. This is because sleep apnea prevents regular, consistent sleep, causing those with the condition to underperform at home and work. It also deprives sleep partners of good sleep or forces them to find alternate sleeping quarters.