How Sleep Apnea Harms Your Heart
- High Blood Pressure
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Heart failure or heart attacks
The most serious risks associated with sleep apnea are those related to your heart and circulatory system (cardiovascular system). It can increase your risk of death from sudden cardiac problems, including heart attacks and stroke, by five times or more.
That’s because your heart bears the brunt of your brain’s demands when it senses a lack of oxygen. The command goes to your heart to pump harder and faster. These repeated calls for faster beating can cause high blood pressure and an irregular heart rhythm. The extra work can also tax your heart excessively, leading to heart failure. The increased blood pressure can also dislodge plaque in your arteries, which then blocks blood supply to your brain, causing a stroke. And snoring, which is often associated with sleep apnea, can damage your arteries, increasing the risk that plaque will form.
How Sleep Apnea Changes Your Metabolism
- Weight gain (obesity)
- Difficulty losing weight
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Sleep is when your body performs necessary tasks such as determining how your body should use or store energy. Because sleep apnea constantly interrupts your sleep, you don’t spend enough time in deep sleep to produce the necessary hormones. This can cause weight gain and make it hard to lose weight even if you exercise and follow a strict diet.
Because sleep apnea interferes with how your body regulates energy, it can also contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
GERD commonly occurs in people with sleep apnea, but we’re unsure whether sleep apnea causes GERD or if the two just have common risk factors.
Sleep Apnea Changes Your Moods and Thoughts
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Lack of focus or drive
- Memory problems
Another of the vital restorative tasks your body performs during sleep is resting your brain. With the numerous interruptions of sleep, you do not spend enough time in deep sleep, including REM sleep, for your brain to recharge. You will likely first notice daytime fatigue, but this can often develop into low mood and into chronic depression. Irritability due to poor sleep can contribute to anger disorders, and you may experience symptoms similar to bipolar disorder secondary to your sleep apnea.
Lack of focus can lead to an increased accident risk. Both traffic accident risk and workplace accident risk are elevated in people with sleep apnea.
Finally, people with sleep apnea can’t perform the vital memory tasks accomplished during REM sleep, which can lead to memory problems. At first motor memory is affected, but over time other types of memory can be affected, and people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of early onset dementia.
Protect Your Health
With all these disorders related to sleep apnea, it’s a relief to note that in most cases, sleep apnea treatment can reduce or eliminate risks, but only if you comply with treatment. If you are having difficulty with CPAP and want an alternative in Denver, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.