An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from the not-so-silent sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is defined as a sleep disorder that causes those affected to repeatedly stop and restart breathing throughout the night. This often translates to restless nights, causing health issues such as lethargy and fatigue that reverberate throughout their waking day. But emerging research is finding that sleep apnea may be causing more problems than just restless nights and tired days. Here’s what you should know about the dangers of sleep apnea.
There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Of these three main apnea types, the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction to the throat muscles, such as pressure on other parts of the throat caused by obesity. Obstructive sleep apnea is an especially dangerous form of sleep apnea because it is usually caused by and occurs with other health problems.
Obesity and Pregnancy
While obstructive sleep apnea probably does not cause obesity, many people who are considered obese have sleep apnea. Worse yet, a recent study found that pregnant women with higher BMIs often have obstructive sleep apnea, and this could cause childhood obesity and high birth weight in their unborn babies. That’s right - just the mother having obstructive sleep apnea could be setting up the child for a future of obesity and health problems!
Another recent study found a connection between Alzheimer’s disease and sleep apnea. The study found that proteins called tau proteins become tangled up in the brain. These tau proteins are markers for Alzheimer’s. While it is not known if Alzheimer’s makes people more susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea or the obstructive sleep apnea is influencing or causing Alzheimer’s, the connection is real and so is the need to treat the sleep apnea.
Yet another troubling study has found that obstructive sleep apnea significantly increases a patient's risk of heart failure.
What Can Be Done?
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, or you or a loved one suspect you might suffer from this dangerous condition, speak to Dr. Lederman about a sleep evaluation. There are many non-invasive options for treating sleep apnea, including a custom sleep orthotic that helps prop open the airway while you sleep.
To learn more about your sleep apnea options, please call Dr. Lederman’s office at 516-882-1764.