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Understanding the Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Rise of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects millions of people around the world and causing its hallmark symptoms – multiple times snoring, stirring, and gasping for air while asleep – to bother most people, including their bed partners. What’s really happening during sleep apnea and why should sufferers seek treatment?

During sleep apnea, your throat muscles relax too much, your airway collapses and gets blocked. Air supply is continually interrupted, causing blood oxygen levels to drop. You are trying to breathe, or you may wake up. This can happen multiple times a night, and the ill-effects are many and severe.

It can put a strain on your heart that races to pump more blood, compensating for the lack of oxygen. Fluctuating oxygen levels cause plaque buildup in arteries, upping the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and stroke. Thousands of Americans die every year of heart disease worsened by apnea. The condition can also affect glucose metabolism and promote insulin resistance and weight gain.

Sleep Apnea can Lead to Other Health Concerns

Many studies and researches correlate apnea with serious aftereffects. Lacking a full night’s sleep is associated with memory loss, anxiety, and depression. Inattention due to lack of sleep can lead to traffic accidents, major absenteeism, and lost of jobs. Those with severe apnea were found to die, 3x more likely, in an 18-year period than those without apnea.

A 2019 study says nearly a billion people worldwide suffer from mild-to-severe sleep apnea. But the condition is largely ignored and studied even less. Many patients are not even aware. A large neck, or large tonsils, a small jaw, obesity, or aging are risk factors. The only way to diagnose it is to monitor someone’s sleep.

The most common method used to diagnose sleep apnea is a sleep study, which may require an overnight stay at a sleep center. The study monitors a variety of functions during sleep including sleep state, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, respiratory effort, airflow, and blood oxygen levels. The test diagnoses sleep apnea and determines its severity.

The sleep study is just the beginning of the journey. The next blog will discuss patients’ options.


More on Sleep Apnea in Bellingham

If you think you’re experiencing sleep apnea symptoms, visit Dr. Tetrick in Bellingham. Let’s discuss it more and explore your options.