What are the risks of Untreated Sleep Apnoea?

What are the risks of Untreated Sleep Apnoea?

While sleep apnoea is best known as a breathing condition that causes poor-quality sleep, untreated sleep apnoea results in much more than just a bad night’s rest: it can be a serious and life-threatening condition. Untreated sleep-apnoea, is a contributing risk factor for obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and depression.

With sleep apnoea, each obstruction of your airway (apnoea or hypopnoea)1 that occurs while you sleep, deprives your body of oxygen and forces it to retain carbon dioxide that you would normally breathe out. As a result, your body’s blood gases get out of balance. These obstructions also increase your heart rate, raise blood pressure, and eventually depress the body’s automatic response system which can result in increasingly severe apnoeas and more frequent mini wake-ups (arousals). People with severe sleep-apnoea can experience over 30 arousals per hour.

Research shows that snoring and sleep apnoea are associated with several other risk factors to your health and welbeing. In fact, sufferers of sleep apnoea have:

  • Almost twice the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease2
  • Three times the risk of dying from cardiovascular issues3
  • More than six times the risk of having a traffic accident4

So, if you have excessive daytime sleepiness and/or think you may have sleep apnoea, you should always consult your GP as soon as possible.

You may want to also read:

1 An apnoea is when the airway fully closes and breathing stops for 10-seconds or more. Hypopnoea when the airway is partially open and breathing is reduced.
2 Greenberg et al. Gender differences in morbidity and health care utilization among adult obstructive sleep apnea patients, Sleep 2007. In this study the increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is calculated specifically amongst women with sleep apnoea.
3 Campos-Rodriguez et al., Cardiovascular Mortality in Women With Obstructive Sleep Apnoea With or Without Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment: A Cohort Study, Annals of internal Medicine, 2012. In this study the increased risk of cardiovascular death is calculated specifically amongst women with sleep apnoea.
4 Teran-Santos et al. The association between sleep apnea and the risk of traffic accidents, New England Journal of Medicine 1999. In this study the increased risk of traffic accidents is calculated in the general sleep apnoea population (men and women).

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