Sleep apnea is a serious condition where the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping air flow, resulting in a pause of 10 seconds or longer in your ability to breathe. If this happens at least 5 times per hour, every hour on average, this results in a diagnosis of mild OSA. After you regain your breath, the cycle repeats itself - all night long.
The onset of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may occur at any age. Based on the Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) 2012, it has been estimated that 170 million adults in the 40 countries of the Americas may suffer from OSA. Goodier, Rob. (2019, June 19). More than a third of people in the Americas may have obstructive sleep apnea. “Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.”
In a word, damage. Over time, the heart cannot maintain its activity when being starved of oxygen, night after night. Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Hypertension, Atrial Fibrillation, and Enlarged Heart (cardiomyopathy) are all conditions that can develop if sleep apnea goes untreated. Studies show that untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and sudden cardiac death by as much as 30%.
Studies show sleep apnea causes memory loss and can play a role in depression. It also increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Sleep plays a vital role in brain health; the brain is able to process the elimination of toxins much more rapidly when asleep than when awake. The brain also consolidates long term memory by strengthening neural connections during sleep.
Poor sleep is a major factor in weight gain. Lack of sleep will affect your nightly hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which tell you when to eat and when you are full. When sleep deprived, your metabolism will not function properly. You will also lack the drive and energy to exercise and make healthier food choices.
CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure and is the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea. As you sleep, a CPAP provides air pressure at a prescribed setting, based on the results of your sleep study. The constant air flow keeps your airway open, allowing for restful sleep. The CPAP machine doesn’t breathe for you. You can breathe in and out normally on your own.