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Complications That Arise From Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition causing complications that may include:

  2. Apnea is defined as a period of cessation of breathing during sleep for ten seconds or longer. If the patient has more than five episodes of apnea per hour of sleep, this is considered clinically significant and helps confirm the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea.

    Hypoapnea occurs when the decrease in airflow results in a 4% decrease in oxyhemoglobin concentration in the blood.

  4. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. About half of people with sleep apnea develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which raises the risk of heart failure and stroke. If there's underlying heart disease, these repeated multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from a cardiac event.

    The more severe the obstructive sleep apnea, the greater the risk for high blood pressure. In contrast, central sleep apnea usually is the result, rather than the cause, of heart disease.

    A study published in November 2005 in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that obstructive sleep apnea greatly increases the risk of stroke, regardless of whether a person has high blood pressure. However, effectively treating obstructive sleep apnea can lower blood pressure and the risk of other cardiovascular diseases.

  6. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. People with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. They may have difficulty concentrating and find themselves falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. Children and young people with sleep apnea may do poorly in school or have behavior problems.

  8. Obstructive sleep apnea also is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications following major surgery because they're prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Before you have surgery, tell your doctor that you have sleep apnea. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation.

  10. Both the person with sleep apnea and the bed partner suffer from sleep deprivation. A bed partner may lose an hour or more of sleep each night from sleeping next to a person with sleep apnea. Along with the apnea episodes, the person afflicted with sleep apnea may have additional trouble sleeping caused by side effects of the condition, including a frequent need to get up and urinate during the night, and excessive nighttime sweating.

    Some trickle-down effects of sleep deprivation are a compromised immune system, poor mental and emotional health, irritability, and slower reaction time, among other problems.

  12. When you stop breathing, your brain does not get enough oxygen. Drastic problems can result from the oxygen deprivation of sleep apnea, including heart disease, high blood pressure, sexual disfunction, and learning/memory problems.

  14. Depression and sleep apnea. Approximately one in five people who suffer from depression also suffer from sleep apnea, and people with sleep apnea are five times more likely to become depressed. Existing depression may also be worsened by sleep apnea. While it is not clear whether the apnea causes the depression or vice-versa, studies show that by treating sleep apnea symptoms, depression may be alleviated in some people.

People with obstructive and central sleep apneas may also complain of:

Memory Problems
Morning Headaches
Mood Swings
Feelings of Depression
Nocturia (a need to urinate frequently at night)
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease may be more prevalent.

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