Do you have High Blood Pressure? Do you suffer from acid reflux or diabetes? Sleep Apnea may be a factor. Sleep apnea is a condition that affects many people, from young to old, and shows no preference between males and females. This condition can lead to devastating side effects if it is left untreated. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of any sleep issues and therefore this deadly condition goes unnoticed and untreated.  Did you know that 1/3 of all Americans have sleep disorders during their lives?  Considering 1 in 3 people in our country are affected by this condition, I feel sleep apnea is something that everyone should educate themselves on.

Sleep apnea is serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops, sometimes for 10 seconds or more, throughout the night.   Your brain and heart don’t receive enough oxygen as a result of obstructive sleep apnea. This generally leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate, and can put you at greater risk of heart attack and stroke. Other associated disorders are diabetes, heart disease, and gastric reflux (GERD). The effects of sleep apnea are varied but there is one proven and very dangerous side effect.  When a person suffers from sleep apnea, their body is not getting the oxygen it needs in order to function properly.

Man laying on his side, snoring. His sleep apnea could be related to a number of health issues including acid reflux or diabetes.

How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Health

Sleep apnea does more than disrupt your sleep. During deep sleep, your body performs important metabolic regulatory tasks. If you never reach the deep, restorative levels of sleep, it throws off these metabolic tasks. Your health can suffer in many ways.

Common Side Effects of Sleep apnea:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Blood Pressure/Hypertension
  • Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • GERD/Digestion
  • Obesity
  • Headaches (Cluster headaches and migraine)

Here’s how sleep apnea contributes to these health effects.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Many patients with sleep apnea have been found to have high blood pressure due to the extra work that the heart gets in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen.  If the condition is not treated, the strength of the heart will deteriorate and the heart will begin pumping blood at a much lower force than is necessary to continue the proper function of the body.  The heart is the first organ that experiences the results of untreated sleep apnea.  Up to 95% of people with drug resistant hypertension (blood pressure that cannot be controlled by medications) have untreated sleep apnea!  Other studies show that people with sleep apnea are four times more likely to develop drug-resistant hypertension. If you are having trouble controlling your blood pressure with medications, this may be the answer you are looking for.

Heart Attack and Stroke

Sleep apnea causes many cardiovascular problems which stem from hypertension and other linked conditions. High blood pressure can dislodge arterial plaque, driving it into smaller blood vessels, where it causes blockage (a stroke). The additional stress on  your heart can contribute to heart attacks at a young age.

Acid Reflux  or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the stomach contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.  Why is this related to sleep apnea?  When a person stops breathing, the sudden alert from the body to begin breathing again causes the person to intensely inhale causing this regurgitation from the stomach.  Most people would never associate their acid reflux symptoms with sleep apnea, but there are numerous studies showing the direct relationship between these two conditions.

Diabetes

Sleep problems and diabetes often go hand in hand. Diabetes can cause sleep loss, and there’s evidence that not sleeping well can increase your risk of developing diabetes.  A man over age 65 with type 2 diabetes has a 67% chance of having sleep apnea; for older women, the chance is almost 50%. Besides making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, sleep apnea increases stress on the body, causing blood sugar levels to rise. Therefore, it is especially important for people with type 2 diabetes to recognize sleep apnea and have it treated.  Many diabetics are struggling with controlling their diabetes because they have an undiagnosed sleep apnea problem.  It is estimated that at least 30-40% of diabetic patients, if properly screened and studied, will be found to have OSA.

Obesity

One of the regulatory tasks your body performs during sleep is deciding how to deal with the food you eat. It can decide whether to burn the food for energy now or store it as fat for later. When your sleep is disrupted, your body is more likely to store fat for the future. This makes it harder for you to lose weight, which can make you more likely to become obese.

Headaches

Cluster headaches commonly start while you are asleep. There is suspicion (but not proof) that cluster headaches are linked to sleep apnea. Migraine headaches seem to have a stronger connection to sleep apnea. More than a third of all people with migraines have sleep apnea, and more than half of people with chronic migraines have sleep apnea. More importantly, people who get their sleep apnea treated see an up to 92% reduction in their migraines.

Treat Sleep Apnea to Preserve Your Health

If you have any of the above health conditions, talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. It’s important to get a sleep test, as this is the only way to successfully diagnose sleep apnea. If your doctor doesn’t know about sleep apnea or won’t refer you for a sleep test, we can help. Please call (248) 656-2020 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry