Whether you’ve just been diagnosed and you’re feeling overwhelmed or you’re struggling to adapt to your sleep apnea treatment, you may not want to deal with your disorder. This, however, can lead to additional health issues.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you’re more likely to experience early-morning headaches, irritability, and daytime sleepiness, among many other unwanted symptoms. The long-term effects of sleep apnea are often far more serious and can lead to chronic health conditions. While adjusting to a new therapy can be difficult, in the long run, the benefits of treating sleep apnea will outweigh any temporary discomfort.
Read on to learn about the potential long-term effects of sleep apnea left untreated and the benefits of treating your sleep disorder sooner rather than later with the right therapy.
Potential Long-Term Effects of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea doesn’t only make you tired. The long-term effects of sleep apnea can seriously impact your health and lead to many comorbidities. Left untreated, your sleep apnea could cause the following conditions.
Risks of Hypertension
Sleep apnea causes a spike in systolic and diastolic pressure. This can lead to higher blood pressure during the night and even into the day when breathing patterns return to normal. When sleep is disrupted, the nervous system releases stress hormones, called catecholamines, into the bloodstream. These hormones also contribute to high blood pressure, especially when sleep apnea continues night after night for a long period of time.
Other risk factors associated with sleep apnea, such as obesity, smoking, and heavy use of alcohol and sedatives, can result in high blood pressure, or hypertension.
The long-term effects of sleep apnea and hypertension include increased risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, people with moderate to severe sleep apnea are four times more likely to have a stroke if they do not seek treatment.
Type 2 Diabetes
While being overweight can increase your likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea and diabetes, there is also an independent link between these two diseases. After all, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight.
Even with an active lifestyle or a weight loss plan, type 2 diabetes can be one of the long-term effects of sleep apnea left untreated. That’s because sleep apnea elevates your blood sugar levels. The pauses in breathing that occur during sleep apnea events cause the level of carbon dioxide in the blood to increase. This in turn leads to insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
Anxiety and Depression
Sleep apnea can cause insomnia, fatigue, and headaches, which interfere with your daily life and increase the risk of anxiety and depression. One of the long-term effects of sleep apnea is an imbalance in hormones and brain chemicals, such as serotonin, which can also contribute to depression.
Major depressive disorders are prevalent in 17.6% of sleep apnea cases, which only adds to the stressors that this sleep disorder places on your body and mind.
Benefits of Treating Sleep Apnea
By starting sleep apnea therapy, you don’t just prevent the potential long-term effects of sleep apnea; you can also improve your daily life. Here are just a few of the benefits of treating sleep apnea that you can look forward to.
Better Quality Sleep for You and Your Bed Partner
One of the most obvious benefits of treating sleep apnea is being able to enjoy a restful night’s sleep — and the same goes for your bed partner!
Sleep apnea events wake you up throughout the night, which can lead to insomnia and a serious loss of sleep. In fact, according to The National Center for Biotechnology, individuals with a presenting complaint related to sleep apnea (eg, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, nocturnal breathing issues), the co-occurrence of insomnia varies between 6% and 84%. And by contrast, in those seeking evaluation for insomnia, rates of co-occurring sleep apnea ranged from 7% to 69%.
Your snoring, gasping, and tossing and turning are sure to disturb and worry your bed partner, too. In many cases, a bed partner or family member is the first to notice your sleeping problems. Without the constant awakenings, you and your bed partner can both finally reclaim your night.
Improved Performance During the Day
If you have untreated sleep apnea, you probably spend the first 30 minutes of your day with a headache. Because you stop breathing during sleep apnea events, the level of carbon dioxide in your blood increases and causes the blood vessels in your head to dilate. Although this kind of vascular headache usually disappears, it makes waking up and starting your day much more difficult.
When you’re tired you’re more likely to make mistakes at work, at home, and even on the road. Drowsy driving is thought to account for up to 5,000 to 6,000 car accidents in the US each year. Additionally, sleep deprivation is even thought to be linked back to larger accidents in the past, around the world.
When you sleep better, you’re able to function safely and more effectively in all aspects of life. This is an important benefit of treating sleep apnea, since it doesn’t just affect you, but also everyone else around you.
Less Risk of Serious Medical Issues
After sleeping properly, your body is well rested, stronger, and more able to focus on tasks. This is perhaps the most motivating benefit of treating sleep apnea, because it means you’re less likely to need medical attention for any long-term effects of sleep apnea.
Moderate to severe sleep apnea that is left untreated increases your risk of death fourfold. To avoid the higher probability of having anything from a car accident to a heart attack, you need to sleep well each night. That starts by choosing and sticking with a sleep apnea treatment that works for you.
Start Treating Your Sleep Apnea Now
If you’re looking for an effective, no-fuss sleep apnea treatment, the Somnera® System could be the right option for you. The low-flow positive airway pressure (PAP) technology and lightweight equipment are comfortable and easy to use. This makes the system ideal for anyone who’s been newly diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Of course, to enjoy all the benefits of treating sleep apnea, you need to commit to your treatment plan each and every night. At Somnera, we know that’s difficult, especially in the beginning. That’s why we offer the SleepBridge™ Support Program with every purchase, at no additional cost. Your certified sleep coach will provide you with virtual 1:1 support to help you set up your system and stay on track.
Learn more about what you can expect with PAP therapy for sleep apnea in this blog post.