The Effects and Danger of Untreated Sleep Apnea

The Effects and Danger of Untreated Sleep Apnea

February 5, 2021

Are you tossing and turning in your sleep every night? Do you wake up still tired and feel groggy throughout the day? You may be suffering from sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea has a much deeper effect than a bad night (or consecutive nights) of sleep. It can result in a long-term negative impact on your body that takes a significant amount of time to correct. How do you know if you have sleep apnea, though? Here’s a closer look at what this condition is and the harmful effect it can have if left untreated.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea makes your muscles relax more than they should while sleeping – to the point of blocking breathing airways. This often wakes up those who suffer from the condition, lowering the quality of sleep a person gets throughout the night. Even if you sleep through the entire night, your sleep apnea may cause snoring or even choking sounds. Such consequences are enough to make most people take control of their untreated sleep apnea. If you need a little more convincing, though, read on to discover the other harmful consequences of this condition.


1. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause you to feel tense and anxious long after you wake up. It comes and goes throughout the day and can be affected by many things. One of the common triggers for high blood pressure, though, is untreated sleep apnea. When you wake up in the middle of the night, your body gets stressed out. Your hormone and oxygen levels can offset, which will send your blood pressure into overdrive. Then, this high blood pressure will affect you the rest of your day. This turns into a long, tolling cycle on the body.

2. Weight Gain

Another vicious health cycle to be aware of is untreated sleep apnea and weight gain. The stress of poor sleep can cause your body to hold on to its stored energy more than usual. It also makes you more tired and less motivated to keep up with your weight loss routine. This doesn’t even take into account all the carbs and sweets your hormone imbalances will make you crave. As you gain weight, sleep apnea will tend to become progressively worse. This can create stronger disruptions to your sleep than what you’re already experiencing. The bright side? It might be enough to push you over the edge and finally get treatment.

3. Acid Reflux

Weight management has just as much to do with food as it does with regular sleep and exercise. What if you’re having trouble digesting certain things, though? This could be a sign of acid reflux – which is also a consequence of untreated sleep apnea. In fact, acid reflux and sleep apnea commonly appear as co-occurring conditions. This means if you have one condition, it’s likely you will experience the other. If this is already the case, the best way to solve each problem is to treat them together instead of just focusing on one. Such a process is something to discuss with your regular doctor as well as your dentist in Oak Lawn, IL.

4. Heart Disease

It’s not unheard of for someone who has sleep apnea to suffer from a heart attack or stroke in the middle of the night.  Think about it: Blocking airways means a minimal amount of oxygen is accessible to the body. In the worst cases of sleep apnea, no oxygen at all is breaking through.  This is what triggers sleep apnea’s subtle symptoms of snoring and coughing.  But, it can also be what causes the extreme symptoms of heart disease.  The risk of heart attack or stroke brought on by sleep apnea isn’t just limited to when you go to bed. It goes back to the stress sleep apnea puts on your body as a whole.  When you get less oxygen than your body needs at night, your brain has trouble acquiring and using oxygen throughout the day.  This is part of what makes you feel sleepy, tired, or sluggish. It’s also what can make your heart panic.

5. Loss of Proper Mental Functions

Speaking of the trouble the brain and heart have when oxygen is limited, let’s talk about the mental effects of poor sleep. Regular sleep is vital to good health in your mind and body. When sleep apnea disrupts your routine, you may feel the emotional and mental tolls before your body shows the symptoms mentioned above. Here are a few ways untreated sleep apnea can harm your mental functions:

Poor Memory –  The more tired you feel, the less alert your mind is.  This makes it harder to process new information, which will take a toll on how well you can remember something later on.  It can also be harder to remember something your mind has already stored away. This is the recall and recognition part of memory. As sleep apnea worsens, so does your ability to remember facts and functions you’ve known for years.

Mood Swings –  Poor memory can be very frustrating to some people.  This is just one of the emotional reactions to poor sleep.  Untreated sleep apnea may also be a cause of:

  • stress
  • irritability and/or a “short fuse.”
  • anxiety
  • depression

Depression may be a shocking condition to see on the list. But, it’s not the only mental disorder that can be brought on by bad sleep.

Mental Disorders – You may suffer from interrupted sleep so much that your body becomes used to it. This isn’t just untreated sleep apnea anymore; it’s insomnia. Insomnia can take much longer to correct. It often requires a mix of behavioral therapy and some sort of medical solution – either pills or natural medications. But, you can stop this condition and all the others mentioned above by being proactive about treating your sleep apnea.

Fix Your Untreated Sleep Apnea

Trade in your restless nights for a full, refreshing period of slumber. If you aren’t sure how to do this, we can help. Dentists have been taking on sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy for years. Discover how this process works sooner rather than later. Contact Forrest Tower, DDS today, and start enjoying your sleep again.

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