Sleep Apnea: How Dangerous is it?

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I think we can all agree that sometimes there is truly nothing more satisfying than a good nights sleep. When we are asleep, we feel safe and impregnable as we are snuggled under a soft blanket, lost in a dream as our brain and body are given a chance to relax and rejuvenate. Sleep is vital for an individuals health but when your sleep cycle is constantly disrupted there can be many dangerous consequences. Sleep apnea, a chronic disorder, interrupts sleep as ones breathing motions are paused up to 20 seconds. This causes them to snore, constantly wake up feeling short of breath, as well as choking or grasping for air in the middle of the night.

Sleep apnea happens when the airways in the lungs are either blocked or the soft tissue in the upper airway of the throat collapses, which restricts oxygen from flowing throughout the body. A persons diaphragm and chest are coerced to work harder in order for the lungs to receive oxygen. The brain and lungs don’t receive enough oxygen and it becomes difficult to breath because the brain doesn’t trigger when it is necessary to breath. The majority of the people with sleep apnea are overweight, middle aged men who have encountered a history with excessive drinking and smoking. Other risk factors that could potentially lead to sleep apnea is sleeping on your back, as well as enlarged tonsils. Sleep apnea isn’t just associated with men; nine percent of women and five percent of children are diagnosed with sleep apnea. Something so minuscule like snoring is perceived to be a minor problem but sleep apnea is an extremely dangerous disorder. Since airways are blocked blood vessels have a difficult time providing for the heart. This increased the risk of high blood pressure which leads to heart diseases as well as strokes. Those with obstructive sleep apnea also become over-tired because they aren’t getting effective sleeps so they have poor concentration, weaker immune systems, and a greater difficulty to learn.

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A study was conducted by Daniel J Gotllieb to discover if sleep apnea is linked with heart failure. This longitudinal observational study is definitely reliable considering the high sample size of 1927 men and 2495 women who are over 40 years old and tests were for run for nine years. The null hypothesis states that there is no relationship between coronary heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea. The alternative hypothesis is individuals with obstructive sleep apnea have a greater risk of having heart failure.  In this study, the null hypothesis was rejected because men who have sleep apnea were 58 percent more likely to have heart failure. The cause of this was due to the nocturnal blood pressure elevation during ones sleep apnea. The study revealed middle aged men with sleep apnea had a greater risk of cardiovascular problems and heart failures opposed to women.

Another study revealed how sleep apnea negatively effects a child’s cognitive potential. They sampled 19 kids with obstructive sleep apnea and 12 kids who were healthy sleepers in order to see if there was evidence that kids with sleep apnea have problems learning, focusing and decision making. After the kids were given neuropsychological tests, researches concluded that brain cells were damaged, as there was severe changes in metabolites inside the brain of kids with with obstructive sleep apnea. This caused those kids to perform weaker on IQ test as well as decision making tests. The effects of an interrupted sleep cycle has negative effects on the learning of children and ultimately their future success. Obstructive sleep apnea alters their decision making and has led to an increased chance of ADHD as well as behavior problems. This will cause them to get easily distracted and make it hard to focus which impacts them tremendously in school. The control group in this study had no patients with ADHD because which could be a factor that could have helped determining a stronger correlation between sleep apnea and ADHD.

Sleep apnea may be overlooked and under diagnosed but is a very dangerous disease that people must be aware of. Snoring, daytime fatigue,quick wake-ups, and restlessness during sleep may seem insignificant as well as un-harmful but is extremely dangerous. Since there is a correlation between sleep apnea and body weight as-well as health, to an extent this disease can be preventable if a person makes life-style changes like eating healthier and reducing the use of alcohol and drugs which will lower the chance of obtaining obstructive sleep apnea.


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4 thoughts on “Sleep Apnea: How Dangerous is it?

  1. Olivia Erb

    Awesome post! I know quite a bit about sleep apnea, my dad suffers from it, or should I say my mom because the snoring is ridiculous. My dad fits all the characteristics of someone who has sleep apnea. He is a middle aged man who is overweight. My dad has had sleep apnea for as long as I can remember. No matter where you’re at in the house if he is sleeping you will hear him. When my dad was in college he was a very skinny, fit, guy, so I imagine he didn’t have sleep apnea then and my mom says that when she knew him back then he didn’t snore at all. So I wonder if stress is also a factor of why sleep apnea occurs. My dad has a pretty stressful job. He is always traveling, negotiating and drawing up blue prints. So I wonder if the stress of a job or just stress in general increases the risks of developing sleep apnea. So I did some research and here is what I found. Stress is one of many reasons why sleep apnea occurs but sleep apnea can also cause stress because the body is not functioning properly.
    Here is a link to an article I found about sleep apnea and stress:

  2. Olivia Anne Browne

    Great post. My mom suffers from sleep apnea. I think you did a good job with this post. I always wonder if its hereditary and if I am going to get it. My whole family snores besides me, but then again I am probably one of the more fit members of my family. I really was intrigued as I continued to read this. Good job drawing some in class concepts into your blog! The effort really shows.
    Check out this article on other sleep disorders!

  3. Nicholas E Schneider

    I’m glad that I got the opportunity to read your blog post as it was a good reminder that there’s always people out there who are less fortunate than you. In the scheme of things there are obviously many diseases and conditions that are more severe and debilitating than sleep apnea, however it’s a condition that gets overlooked despite having a significant impact on both the daily and long-term lives of those who suffer from it. This subject intrigued me because just last week while on break I mentioned to my parents that I’ve been having difficulty falling asleep until very late at night. I was down on myself and selfishly thinking how unlucky I am to have this nuisance affecting me nightly. Once I read your post though I was reminded that my issue is minuscule in comparison to the problems many others face. Yes, not being able to fall asleep at night can be frustrating, but constantly waking up during sleep due to an inability to breath (not to mention the laundry list of potential other issues that can arise due to sleep apnea) is far worse than any problem I deal with as a result of my inability to sleep early in the night.

    For anyone who feels that they may have sleep apnea, here’s an article I found listing potential signs and symptoms of the disorder:

  4. Lauren Elizabeth Jardine

    Well done article! A close family friend was very overweight throughout most of my childhood (he is a middle aged man) and always had bad sleep apnea. When I would sleep at their house I could hear he snoring and waking all the way from his daughters room down the hall. However, about three years ago he lost over seventy pounds and since then his sleeping patterns have been much more regular. He claims he doesn’t snore or wake up as much as he used to and attributes the change to the lost weight. While this is only anecdotal, I would say it corresponds with the researched evidence you have here.

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