Sleep apnea is a widely misunderstood condition. Some people are under the impression that the worst thing it does is cause snoring. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if it is left untreated, sleep apnea can prove to be deadly! Let’s talk about how that is so and what you can do to protect yourself from this disorder’s devastating consequences.
According to statistics from the CDC, about 1 out of every 4 deaths in the United States is related to heart disease. Many of those deaths may be attributed to sleep apnea; research published in 2013 estimates that 47% to 83% of people with cardiovascular disease also have the sleep disorder. Sleep apnea can be a major contributor to heart issues because it affects the level of oxygen in the body and exposes the heart to constant stress.
Untreated sleep apnea drastically lowers the quality of the sleep an individual is able to get. They may thus be extremely tired throughout the day and suffer from slowed reaction times that can affect how well they are able to drive. Research indicates that individuals with sleep apnea are 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a motor vehicle accident than the general population.
Sleep apnea makes diabetes more difficult to manage because poor quality sleep increases insulin resistance. Daytime sleepiness can also deprive diabetes sufferers of the energy they need to exercise and prepare balanced meals.
Protecting Your Health
The above information highlights the fact that while sleep apnea will not kill you by itself, leaving it untreated could prove to be fatal. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, or if you have any major risk factors for it, there are steps you can take to protect your health and maybe even preserve your life:
- Take a sleep test. This will reveal whether you have sleep apnea and how severe it is.
- Research your treatment options. A CPAP machine is the most popular way to treat sleep apnea, but many patients find that a custom oral appliance from a dentist is more comfortable and more convenient.
- Comply with your treatment. Regardless of which type of treatment you use, it is important that you use it consistently. You should also attend all recommended follow-up appointments with your sleep doctor.
- Monitor your progress. You will likely start to feel better soon after you begin your treatment. Regular checkups with your general physician will help you stay informed about the state of your overall health.
Sleep apnea can kill! If you believe that you have it, seeking treatment as soon as possible could improve the quality of your life — and maybe even save it altogether.
About the Author
Dr. Keith Hollinger is a dentist in Glastonbury who has completed specialized training in dental sleep medicine. He offers oral appliance therapy for individuals who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. To learn more about Dr. Hollinger and how he may be able to help you improve the quality of your sleep and lower your risk of life-threatening conditions, contact our practice at 860-430-5687.