Sleep Apnea explained in 1 min
Do you wake up tired? Does your partner complain that you snore? Did you know that 1 in about 4 Canadian adults suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Sleep Apnea is an involuntary pause in breathing during your sleep for at least 10 seconds. OSA is the most common sleep disorder, caused by an obstruction of the airways in the throat region(1,2), and happens when the muscles relax during sleep.
Airflow is obstructed or reduced, causing vibrations that can result in snoring during sleep, a drop in oxygen, and a rise in your heartbeat. The brain senses this lack of oxygen and responds with sudden, unconscious "micro-awakenings" to restore breathing. The repeated occurrence of frequent interruptions of breathing during the night breaks the sleep pattern, which ceases to be a restorative activity.
Do you snore? Could you have sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is commonly associated with loud snoring, but not all snorers suffer from sleep apnea (4). For 75% of people with sleep apnea, the first sign is when your bed partner complains about it, or when he/she notices that you are panting or breathing abnormally, and therefore will likely have an agitated sleep (5).
Some mild snoring can be harmless and often treated with over-the-counter products like ones that improve your sleep positioning. But when your snoring is loud and accompanied by breathing pauses called apneas – which are periods when you stop breathing and then gasp for air – it can be a sign of sleep apnea.
If you are experiencing 2 or more of the below common symptoms, you may be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea and should speak with your medical professional:
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Mood changes, such as depression or irritability
Difficulty concentrating during the day
Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
Recurring dry mouth or sore throat
Repeated visits to the bathroom at night
Is untreated sleep apnea dangerous?
Over time Untreated OSA can become complicated and potentially lead to other health conditions.
With early diagnosis and a prescribed sleep apnea treatment, you may be able to reduce other health concerns and start feeling like yourself again.
Consequences of untreated sleep apnea
The health risks of untreated sleep apnea reach far beyond daytime exhaustion. Common risks caused by untreated sleep apnea include hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Obstructive sleep apnea and your heart
The combination of sleep disturbances and lack of oxygen can lead to the development or worsening of chronic health diseases which are closely associated with obstructive sleep apnea, including:
- High blood pressure 3,4
- Stroke 3,4
- Type 2 diabetes 5
- Metabolic syndrome 6
- Depression 7
- Heart rhythm disorder
- Heart failure (when the heart no longer pumps enough blood to meet the body's needs) (15).
Obesity, diabetes and sleep apnea
Feeling tired can cause you to eat more than you normally would and lead to weight gain.
- Approximately 15-30% of people with OSA also have type 2 diabetes (11).
- Interrupted sleep caused by sleep apnea puts stress on your heart and your body. It can cause your blood sugar levels to rise, potentially leading to insulin resistance.