Think Obstructive Sleep Apnea is #NBD? Here Are Seven Health Conditions Made Worse By Your Undiagnosed OSA
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes your breathing to stop at night due to an upper airway collapse. More than 25 million US adults suffer from the condition, according to the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project — and that number is on the rise!
“So what?” you might think. “Maybe I have sleep apnea, but it’s not really hurting my overall health.”
Actually, it probably is. You just don’t know it.
Here’s a list of seven medical problems that are linked to OSA.
I’ve lost count of the number of my patients whose blood pressure is through the roof despite the fact that they’re on multiple blood pressure medications. We call this resistant hypertension because their condition “resists” treatment. Researchers estimate that up to 50 percent of people with high blood pressure also suffer from OSA. That’s bad news because according to the American College of Cardiology, sleep apnea and high blood pressure are “a dangerous pair” that have been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
A study of almost 9,000 people showed that those with severe OSA had a 30% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those without. Researchers aren’t sure why this is, although they suggest it might have something to do with the fact that failure to sleep through the night might result in insulin resistance, increased cortisol levels, and glucose intolerance.
Not breathing is incredibly stressful on the body, especially the heart. Don’t believe me? Hold your breath for 60 second and think about what you felt your body doing. When your oxygen intake is decreased, your heart is forced to work harder to get blood to the important parts of your body. This extra work causes the heart to enlarge, making it harder to oxygenate. One recent study found a 58% increase in congestive heart failure in men with severe OSA.
More than 70 percent of people with OSA report symptoms traditionally associated with depression. In fact, depression was twice as likely to be diagnosed in men and five times more likely in women with OSA.
A BMI of 20 or more is considered obese. About three in four OSA patients have a body mass index greater than 30. To make matters worse, obese people with OSA are more likely to gain more weight than obese people without the disease. While we can’t say what the causal link between OSA and obesity is, we have consistently found a link between sleeping less and weighing more
When kids have trouble concentrating and start to experience behavioral issues, many parents wonder if ADHD is to blame. For decades, ADHD has been treated with medications, many of which have been successful with a number of children. But researchers have recently wondered whether sleep disordered breathing [SBD] played a role in ADHD. The authors of a 2014 study did in fact find a link between ADHD and SBD, and issued two controversial recommendations. First, they suggested that every child with an ADHD diagnosis should be screened for SBD. Second, if SBD was found, the authors recommended treating the sleep disorder before medicating the ADHD symptoms.
As we use our brains throughout the day, harmful waste products accumulate between brain cells. When we sleep, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flushes through our brain, removing the built-up neurotoxic waste. One of the proteins flushed away during this process is beta-amyloid, which researchers have long linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Imagine what your front yard would look like if your waste removal service suddenly stopped coming to take away your trash. It would be full of trash! Sleep is our brain’s trashman, so to speak, but he can only do his job when we’re asleep. If our sleep is interrupted — as it is with OSA — then our brain may never reach its critical cleaning stage.
As you can see, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury. Sleeping through the night is a critical component of our general health. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have OSA, talk to your medical doctor or dentist. If you were already diagnosed with the condition but gave up on using CPAP — no shame; you’re not alone! — talk to your dentist about making an oral sleep appliance. (As I wrote last month, though dental insurance won’t cover the appliance, certain qualified dentists will be able to bill your medical insurance.) With an American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine dentist helping control your OSA, you can be on your way to a longer, healthier life.