Dangers of Sleep Apnea

sleepy driver (2)The following are some of the physical conditions and dangers that researchers have documented associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

High Blood Pressure – During the phase in OSA where breathing stops, there is a sympathetic (emergency) response in the body every time  that causes heart rate and blood pressure to increase.  OSA suffers have hundreds of events per night, thus the body remains in a constant state of elevated blood pressure.

Because the body is not getting sufficient oxygen, it is not converting enough into nitric oxide and this causes blood vessels to narrow.  Therefore, a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

OSA increases hypertension risk by 45%

Car Accidents – People with untreated sleep apnea are twelve times more likely to be involved in an automobile accident. Tired driving is the #1 cause of car accidents and is statistically more dangerous than drunk driving.
A 1997 Study showed annual cost $12.4billion due to sleep related accidents

Headaches – Three types of headaches have been directly linked to the presence of OSA.

  • Migraine
  • Cluster Headaches
  • Dull Morning Headaches

All are caused by different things, morning headaches and cluster headaches have been linked to oxygen desaturation events. Migraine headaches are coorelated with REM & Delta sleep patterns which are severely disrupted in patients with OSA.

Weight Gain – Because of sleep deprivation associated with OSA, leptin levels (a neurotransmitter) go down and that increases appetite.  Leptin regulates appetite.  Also a hormone that stimulates hunger, Ghrelin, increases when there is sleep deprivation.

Diabetes – Obese patients are more likely to have OSA and they are also more likely to have diabetes.  Perpetual lack of sleep in healthy young adults results in changes in glucose metabolism and endocrine functioning.  There is evidence in studies to show a link between OSA and insulin resistance.

Sexual Dysfunction – A lack of nitric oxide in the body narrows arteries and decreases blood flow to all areas of the body including the sexual organs.  This affects both men and women.

Acid Reflux or G.E.R.D (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) – When breathing is stopped, the body increases efforts to take in air so abdominal contractions become exaggerated, and get worse if breathing does not begin. These contractions squeeze the stomach and force acid up.  Negative pressure builds up in the esophagus because of efforts to breathe. This helps pull acid up as well.