What Does Sleep Apnea Do to Your Body?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which your airway narrows or is partially blocked during sleep, causing you to have short, repeated periods of time where breathing stops. As this progresses throughout the night, you move in between deep and light phases of sleep, without getting the fully restorative sleep that you need. The irregular breathing also causes your blood oxygen levels to go down, which can make your heart work harder.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping or snorting sounds
  • Feeling very sleepy during the day
  • Morning headaches, as well as a sore throat or dry mouth upon waking
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering

Long-Term Effects of Sleep Apnea

As you can probably guess, sleep apnea can have serious effects on your health. These include increased risk of:

  • Developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or liver problems
  • Stroke
  • Heart problems, including heart attack and irregular heartbeat
  • Developing metabolic syndrome, a disorder that includes abnormal cholesterol and an increased waist circumference
  • Depression

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Before going through any type of treatment for the condition, an appointment with a sleep specialist will be needed, during which a sleep study will be performed to measure and record data on what happens to your body during sleep. These measurements include your heart rate, breathing, movements, and more. Using this data, the sleep specialist will be able to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of sleep apnea.

There are several treatment options:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) – the most common treatment for the disorder. You wear a hose and mask that is connected to a machine that helps keep your airways open with a low, steady stream of air.
  • Oral appliances – are customized mouth guards, which gently coax your jaw and/or tongue forward to open the airway
  • Surgery – the last solution when other treatments aren’t effective, especially if your symptoms are caused by a structural abnormality such as a deviated septum