Many people with sleep apnea don’t realize they have it. They also don’t realize that it’s behind many of the serious health problems they’ve been experiencing. Worse, when people have sleep apnea, it creates a cycle of poor health that can cause rapid declines in health and make it hard to get better.
Fortunately, sleep apnea treatment can help break the cycle and lead to positive health changes.
The Cycles of Poor Health Related to Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea sets up a number of what are called positive feedback loops in which the very conditions that cause sleep apnea are worsened by sleep apnea, causing your overall health to decline significantly.
For example, obesity is a major contributor to sleep apnea. But when you have sleep apnea, your body’s ability to regulate energy consumption is disrupted, resulting in weight gain. You also lose your ability to resist temptations for comfort foods, and you may consume more foods and beverages to try to stay awake despite your daytime sleepiness. And sleep apnea makes it harder for you to exercise, so it’s harder to burn up calories. This all combines to lead to even more weight gain, which, in turn, makes your sleep apnea worse.
You might experience similar effects related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which has been linked to sleep apnea. As NAFLD worsens, it can turn into cirrhosis, and one of the effects of cirrhosis is disrupted sleep patterns and increased risk of sleep apnea.
One of the most serious effects of sleep apnea is heart disease leading to heart failure. The problem is, though, that heart failure can cause central sleep apnea, which can be harder to treat than obstructive sleep apnea. And if your sleep apnea isn’t treated, it increases your risk of having multiple heart failures, eventually leading to a fatal one.
Break the Cycle
Because of the way sleep apnea works, it is likely to worsen if left untreated, and, along with it, all the threatening health complications it causes. But sleep apnea treatment can intervene, allowing you to avoid more serious complications and worsening sleep apnea.