If you’re one of the 22 million people across the US living with sleep apnea or are concerned that you may have symptoms, it’s important to understand what this diagnosis might mean for you. 

1) Understand How Sleep Apnea Affects The Body

Although sleep science is a relatively new field of study, continued research and developments have helped medical professionals understand how sleep apnea disturbs the upper airways, impacting the body’s breathing patterns and ability to enter the restorative stages of sleep. Studies have shown the consequences sleep deprivation and reduced oxygen levels can have on the body’s day-to-day functions goes far behind the respiratory system, with reproductive health, digestion, and cardiovascular systems all affected by the condition. 

What systems in the body are impacted by sleep apnea?

Understanding the impact sleep apnea has on overall health can help patients to spot medical complications early on, and seek advice to treat new conditions, as well as review protocols for apnea management. 

Respiratory system 

When breathing is disturbed during the night, the body is deprived of oxygen – reducing the level in your bloodstream. Patients may find themselves short of breath and have trouble performing physical activity.

Medical complications

For those pre-diagnosed with respiratory issues such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), symptoms may worsen with apnea. High blood sugar is a common cause of type 2 diabetes, demonstrating the link between sleep apnea and diabetes diagnosis. Those with apnea are more likely to develop health issues with the liver, resulting in scarring, fatty liver disease, and higher-than-normal levels of liver enzymes. Apnea sufferers are more likely to experience an abnormal heart rhythm, increasing the chances of a stroke. The risk of heart failure is also higher in sleep apnea patients. For men, apnea can also impact reticle dysfunction and harm their ability to have children.

Endocrine system

Sleep apnea can increase your likelihood of developing insulin resistance, a condition where the cells of the body don’t respond as well to the hormone insulin, causing blood sugars to rise.

Digestive system 

Sleep disturbances can have a large impact on the digestive system, with apnea worsening symptoms of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Circulatory and cardiovascular systems

Medical research has shown a link between high blood pressure and sleep apnea, as well as obesity – which also affects the body’s circulatory and cardiovascular systems.

Reproductive system

Sleep apnea can reduce your libido due to continued fatigue and other symptoms.

2) Your Doctor Should Confirm Which Type Of Apnea You Have 

There are 3 different types of sleep apnea, all of which can affect the airways in different ways. With an estimated 10 to 30% of people in the US alone diagnosed with the condition, it is important for patients to understand the types of sleep apnea they have to best manage symptoms and explore potential treatment options.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) diagnoses are the most common

Commonly referred to as OSA, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most commonly diagnosed in the majority of cases. This type of apnea results from intermittent relaxation in the throat muscles, which can block the airways whilst sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea can cause a variety of symptoms and health complications, as the body struggles to get enough air into the lungs during the night. You may also suffer from snoring, waking up gasping (as the brain alerts you to wake up for air), daytime drowsiness, headaches, as well as other problematic symptoms. 

Central Sleep Apnea Happens When the Brain Is Involved

Unfortunately, Central Sleep Apnea is one of the more challenging types of apnea to diagnose and can also be more difficult to treat. This less common form of the condition is caused by the brain miscommunicating messaging to the muscles that control breathing. Both OSA and Central Sleep Apnea share similar symptoms, such as pauses in breathing, nighttime disturbances, and fatigue during the day. 

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome

Recent developments and research in sleep medicine have enabled practitioners to discover a new, third type of apnea presenting in patients. Complex Sleep Apnea is a combination of the two, although many may be initially suspected to have only OSA. However, upon starting treatment, these cases are usually not resolved with common obstructive therapies, leading to further investigations when breathing problems persist. With Complex Sleep Apnea patients, there can be multiple reasons for the airway to collapse, which both fall under a OSA or Central Sleep Apnea diagnosis.

3) There Are Many Reasons You Have Sleep Apnea

Receiving a sleep apnea diagnosis can be overwhelming, and you will often find yourself questioning how the condition developed. There are many risk factors that can lead to apnea, some of which patients are born with and others a consequence of lifestyle factors and health issues. In general, obesity accounts for 40% of diagnoses, as fat deposits affect the muscles around the upper airway, causing breathing to become restricted. Men are also more likely to develop the condition than women, although the likelihood can increase after menopause.

Risks that could lead to an apnea diagnosis:

  • People with abnormalities in the respiratory system, such as thicker necks, narrow throats, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
  • Family history of sleep apnea 
  • Smoking 
  • Drinking or use of sedatives
  • Age
  • Gender

4) It’s Important To Be Aware Of Your Apnea Symptoms

One of the main obstacles with apnea diagnosis results is that tell-tale signs of the condition symptoms take place whilst they are sleeping, such as snoring, irregular breathing patterns, or gasping for air. Medical professionals believe there are many living undiagnosed who are not aware of their condition, so, if you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of the condition, it’s important to be aware of the signs and when to seek help from a medical professional.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

There are a few other signs to watch out for if you suspect you have sleep apnea, or you are awaiting further testing through sleep studies.

  • Waking up with a dry mouth, throat
  • Excessive fatigue Headaches
  • Mood changes and irritability 
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Loud snoring
  • Night time waking with choking or gasping
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Nightmares

5) Explore Many Screening And Treatment Options For Sleep Apena

Our Sleep Cycle Centers use a combination of a scientifically accurate screening test and an at-home sleep test to diagnose any underlying issues. Working with our professional team and referring providers, we can assist with a range of treatments to manage apnea symptoms and improve health and help patients achieve better, recuperative, and more restful sleep. 

Contact Us For Reliable And Comfortable Apnea Screenings

If you’re struggling with sleep apnea and wish to explore your treatment options with a dedicated sleep clinic, call us to schedule an appointment today!