Untreated Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Long-Term Health

Dr. Don Vespa of Pinellas Family Dental in Largo, Florida wants the public to that If you suffer from sleep apnea, it is important to seek treatment. Your chronic fatigue and mental fog may be taking a huge toll on your interpersonal relationships and overall happiness. However, you may not realize that your condition can also have serious consequences for your overall physical health. Sleep apnea has been linked to a number of health conditions. It is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent long-term problems. Although many practitioners use CPAP machines to treat sleep apnea, your dentist can often treat the condition with a small, comfortable, oral,  sleep apnea appliance.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

There are two varieties of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is rather uncommon. This condition will arise if your brain does not send the proper signals to stimulate breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is far more common. When you are asleep, your whole body falls into a deep relaxation. However, if your throat, tongue, or soft palate slacken too much, the tissues can block the flow of air through your windpipe. In response, you will wake up or emerge from the deeper stages of sleep, meaning you will never get the full night’s rest that your body needs. Often, you will not be conscious of the interruptions in your sleep cycle, so you may not even realize that you suffer from the condition. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. These include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Chronic daytime fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness
  • A lowered libido
  • Chronic sore or dry throat in the morning

OSA and Elevated Blood Pressure

Although these side effects can certainly make life less pleasant, there are even greater concerns associated with sleep apnea. If you suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you face a significantly higher risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. There is no doubt about the connection between these conditions, but scientists are still trying to determine the exact correlation. Some scientists believe that frequent interruptions to your sleep will trigger an excess production of hormones. In turn, this biochemical influx will raise your blood pressure. Fortunately, there seems to be a two-way connection; treating OSA may enable you to cut back on your blood pressure medication.

Sleep Apnea and Your Heart Health

High blood pressure will increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Therefore, if you have OSA, you will face a higher risk for cardiovascular problems and premature death. However, many experts believe that repeated disruptions to your sleep can also raise your risk for these problems independent of blood pressure levels. Because your brain will not receive a steady flow of oxygen, it can impair your brain’s ability to regulate heart beats. In turn, this can lead stroke and atrial fibrillation (chronic heart irregularity). Fortunately, sleep apnea treatment can greatly reduce these risks. According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 40% of patients with OSA and atrial fibrillation will need treatment for their heart condition after being treated for sleep apnea.

Weight and Diabetes

The International Diabetes Federation states that 40% of people with obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from diabetes. However, researchers caution that this does not necessarily indicate a causal relationship. Obesity is a common risk factor for both conditions, and losing weight may help to control both OSA and diabetes. Nevertheless, other scientists speculate that sleep apnea may make it more difficult to control weight and blood sugar. Lack of sleep can make your body more resistant to insulin. It can also increase the likelihood of weight gain.

The Dangers of Daytime Sleepiness

Of course, chronic fatigue will affect your productivity, professional success, and happiness. However, it could also have life threatening consequences. According to the National Thoracic Society, patients with untreated OSA are two to three times more likely to be in a car accident than patients without sleep apnea. The society does not advocate restricting patient’s driving privileges, provided they have not had an OSA-related accident. However, if you suffer from the condition, the researchers do advise you to seek treatment as soon as possible. Doing so will not only protect your life; it could also save the lives of others out on the road.

Treating Your Sleep Apnea

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines are one way of treating sleep apnea. However, these bulky devices can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Many patients find that they cannot get used to CPAP machines, and they continue to experience disrupted sleep. If you have not found success with a CPAP machine, or if you would like to begin with a more conservative option, your dentist can provide you with an oral splint. This small, custom-made device will fit over your teeth. As the splint repositions your jaw, it will tighten your soft palate and prevent your tongue from drooping into your airways. In 2013, Sleep, the official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, published a study comparing CPAP and oral appliances. The researchers determined that both treatments yield comparable results for patients with mild or moderate sleep apnea. They urged patients and health care professionals to consider conservative oral splints as a viable alternative to CPAP machines.

See our Obstructive Sleep Apnea Expert, Don Vespa, DDS

Dr. Don Vespa of Pinellas Family Dental is an expert in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea who can help you have a longer, healthier life. Schedule your obstructive sleep apnea consultation with Dr. Don Vespa today. Adjustable oral splints that open the airway are a very effective alternative to CPAP machines for most patients. These splints are custom fit and adjusted by dentists. Dr. Vespa would like to improve your life through accurate diagnosis, comfortable appliance therapy, and monitoring of the effects of this therapy. As part of your Sleep Apnea treatment, Dr. Vespa will collaborate with your physicians to maximize your overall systemic health through the regular flow of oxygen into your lungs all through the night.  You no longer have to suffer from Sleep Apnea.