Around 60 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Sleep problems can hinder daily functioning, affect health, and impair quality of life. Psychiatric illness is more common among people with a sleep disorder. Sleep is critical to brain function and productivity. Humans spend 30% of their lives sleeping. Sleep allows the body and brain to rest and recover from daily life stressors.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by frequent cessations of breathing during sleep. With sleep apnea, obstruction of the airway occurs, and this can affect movement and function of the tongue and airway dilator muscles (or both). People with sleep apnea also have frequent central apneic episodes, where breathing stops temporarily. Risk factors for sleep apnea include obesity, upper airway abnormalities, heredity, and smoking.
Fatigue and Tiredness
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, you will feel tired and fatigued throughout your day. Many people require 7-9 hours of sleep to function, and sleep apnea interferes with normal sleep cycles. It is like being awakened every 30 minutes and never getting solid, uninterrupted sleep. People who suffer from sleep apnea are often tired and report fatigue during the day. They often require frequent naps during the day due to poor rest the night before.
Sleep interruptions will fragment sleep. When a person goes back to sleep after an interruption, it may take an hour to reach the restful portion of a sleep cycle. These constant interruptions during sleep cause delays in the cycle. Poor sleep quantity and quality can lead to drowsiness, irritability, poor memory, and chronic fatigue.
High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, sleep apnea can make it worse. When you wake up frequently during the night, your body gets stressed. Persistent stress makes your hormone levels (cortisol) go up, and this boots blood pressure levels. In addition, oxygen levels are decreased, which affects blood pressure. Getting treated for sleep apnea will lower your blood pressure, in addition to making you feel better.
People with obstructive sleep apnea are more at risk for myocardial infarction. The causes of heart attack are low oxygen or stress from waking up so often. In addition, people with sleep apnea are more likely to experience atrial fibrillation, a fluttering, rapid heartbeat. Sleep apnea disrupts how the body takes in oxygen, which makes it difficult for the brain to control how blood flows to the arteries and other organs.
Sleep apnea is more common in people with diabetes mellitus. In fact, 80% of people with diabetes also have obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity raises a person’s risk for both disorders, and researchers are looking for the cause-and-effect link between these two conditions. Weight gain seems to be the main factor in both health problems, diabetes and sleep apnea alike.
Extra pounds will raise your risk of developing sleep apnea. In addition, obstructive sleep apnea makes it harder for a person to lose weight. When you are overweight or obese, you have fatty deposits of the neck that block breathing at night. Sleep apnea also makes you release ghrelin, a hormone that makes you crave sweets and carbs. If you are tired a lot, you turn to food for extra energy, which makes the problem worse.