sleep apnea & Overall Health

High Blood Pressure

Numerous studies show a link between high blood pressure and obstructive sleep apnea.  This happens because sleep apnea causes a drop in oxygen levels in the bloodstream.  The cardiovascular system responds with a surge in a number of hormones called catecholamines that increase blood pressure.  High blood pressure, in turn, is known to increase risks for heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, and premature death.  If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and you habitually snore, then you should be tested for obstructive sleep apnea. 

Heart Disease

Heart attacks and congestive heart failure occur more frequently in patients with untreated obstructive sleep apnea.  The low oxygen levels during sleep apnea can result in chronic damage to lung tissue in a condition called core pulmonale.

Fatigue/Sleepiness

One of the most common symptoms is fatigue.  It is the deep stages of sleep that allow the mind and body to recover and restore energy.  Sleep apnea interrupts the deep stages of sleep so that patients may sleep for a normal amount of time, but still wake up feeling tired.  This can result in falling asleep while driving--a common cause of car accidents. 

Car Accidents and Occupational Risk

Car accidents and work-related accidents are more common in patients with untreated obstructive sleep apnea.  Certain professions, such as truck drivers require testing for sleep apnea if there are any signs or symptoms suggestive of sleep apnea.  

Memory, Concentration, and Dementia

There is a growing body of medical literature that shows a relationship between poor cognition and untreated sleep apnea.  This is probably because memory consolidation happens during the deep stages of sleep--the very stages that are most disrupted in patients with untreated obstructive sleep apnea. 

Social Ramifications

Snoring can certainly be a nuisance.  It is an important source of distress in many families around the world.  Snoring may occur with or without co-existent sleep apnea.  A simple home sleep test can distinguish between the two conditions.  Snoring that is not associated with apnea is referred to as primary snoring.  There are a variety of treatment options for primary snoring including soft palate procedures such as the Pillar Procedure.