Effects of sleep apnea can occur very slowly and subtly that you may not even know the hidden dangers. Obstructive sleep apnea, or breathlessness due to blocking of the windpipe by the collapsed muscles of the throat, can cause temporary lack of oxygen supply.
Obstructive sleep apnea can cause a variety of problems and put the person at risk of developing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Sleep apnea does not present any visible symptoms, the only prime symptoms are waking up due to breathlessness at nights and feeling very drowsy or sleepy during the day.
Some such dangers of sleep apnea are listed below:
When breathing is stopped during sleep, the person wakes up panicking to take in deep breaths or cough to restore the breathing. This causes stress hormones to increase, thereby increasing the blood pressure. Fall in the levels of oxygen in blood adds up to the rise in blood pressure.
Low levels of oxygen leads to rise in blood pressure and this further exerts pressure on the heart. Atrial fibrillation, the fast and fluttering heartbeats, is a problem that is commonly associated with sleep apnea. Oxygen level of the brain also is affected and it is not able to control the blood flow in the arteries. A person may die in sleep if they are not able to breathe due to sleep apnea that progresses into a heart attack.
Sleep apnea leads to drowsiness during the daytime and this causes the metabolism also to slow down. People with sleep apnea are known to have craving for sweets and carbohydrates as their mind is tuned to have them for instant energy. This slow metabolism leads to increase in weight and makes it difficult to reduce weight through dieting or exercise, unless the condition is treated. Fat accumulation in the neck, tongue and upper belly take place and further aggravate the condition of sleep apnea.
Persons who are obese have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although diabetes can occur in those who are not obese also and this is true in case of people with sleep apnea too.
Many people with sleep apnea have difficulty in focusing, concentration, problem solving and decision making. Their brain seems to be “cloudy” due to the drowsiness or sleepiness, which in turn, is due to lack of sleep.
People who have not taken any measures to overcome the breathlessness during sleep may feel excessively sleepy during their routine activities. Sometimes, without their knowledge or control, they doze off into sleep. This is especially dangerous while working with machines, tools and equipments. Accidents can happen while driving also, as the person may dose off during a long-distance drive.
Sleep apnea has to be given immediate attention to avoid serious complications. Luckily, it is a treatable condition. Machines like CPAP and BiPAP provide positive airway pressure while sleeping and open up the airways to facilitate breathing. Once the condition is diagnosed and treatment is started, the person feels the difference in terms of feeling more energetic and becoming more alert in just -4 days.