Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that interrupts the restful, restorative sleep your body and brain need every night to repair, recover, and re-energize. If you snore or gag while you sleep, you may have sleep apnea. 

Kimberly Bolling, MD, a dedicated and skilled internist, takes sleeping, snoring, and sleep apnea very seriously. That’s why she evaluates and treats sleep apnea at her Bowie, Maryland, office. 

Sleep without breath

When you snore, something is obstructing your airway. Either your chin is recessed, your nasal bone (i.e., septum) is deviated and blocks a nostril, or other structures in your face or neck are too large and constrict your airway.

Not everybody who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone with sleep apnea snores. However, snoring is the No. 1 symptom associated with this dangerous disorder. 

Most people with sleep apnea who snore have a common type of sleep apnea, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A rare type, central sleep apnea (CSA), originates in the brain, which “forgets” to tell you to breathe at night.

Why is sleep apnea dangerous? 

The word “apnea” derives from an ancient Greek word meaning “without breath.” Breath is life, of course. Without breath and the oxygen it provides, your cells don’t get the nutrients and energy they need to function. 

Apneas deprive your body of breath and, ultimately, could deprive it of life.

Sleep without rest

Sleep apnea disrupts the restorative sleep your body needs to recover from its daily activities. Without sleep, the health of all of your organs is compromised, including your:

Sleep apnea therefore raises your risk for serious, life-threatening illnesses and conditions, including heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. On a more mundane, and yet still serious, level, sleep apnea affects your libido and may lead to loss of interest in sex, or to erectile dysfunction (ED) in men.

In addition to putting you at risk for health conditions, sleep apnea affects your performance in daily life. You may not be able to concentrate, focus, and stay alert during school, work, or social activities. Without rest, you’re also more likely to have a car crash or work-related accident.

Bad sleep makes you fat, and vice versa

Almost half of the obese adults in the United States have OSA. Adults and kids who have OSA are also more likely to be overweight or obese. 

If you have sleep apnea and gain more weight, you can worsen your OSA. In fact, if you add just 10% of fat to your total body weight, you’re six times more likely to develop a more serious case of sleep apnea. The good news is that if you lose that extra 10%, your OSA may improve by 20%.

Lack of sleep also affects your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. So, if you have OSA or CSA, your body may feel hungry all of the time, and you might not get the signal that you’re full after you’ve eaten. 

Treat sleep apnea to reset your body

The good news is that sleep apnea is treatable. And once you treat your sleep apnea, you reduce your risk for complications, including obesity.

If Dr. Bolling believes that OSA contributes to your sleepiness, obesity, diabetes, or other health conditions, she prescribes a customized oral appliance that keeps your airway open while you sleep. Or, if you have a more complicated case, she may recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Once you sleep through the night without snoring or waking up, every aspect of your health improves. You feel better, you’re more alert, and you reduce your risk for serious complications.

If obesity or excess weight is involved in your OSA, Dr. Bolling helps you lose the extra pounds safely and permanently. With her team approach to wellness and weight loss, you learn how to eat better to feel better. And sleep better, too. 

If you snore or don’t feel rested after a full night’s sleep, call our Bowie, Maryland, office today at 301-352-0090 for a sleep apnea evaluation. You can also request an appointment online or send a message to Dr. Bolling and the team here on our website.

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