The Real Dangers of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Typical breathing is restricted as the muscles in the back of the throat close creating obstructive sleep apnea. These muscles are the same that are used in typical speech. They’re essential for supporting the tonsils, soft palate, and tongue. The muscles actually close with the relaxation. The relaxation causes the airway to become smaller and smaller. It can even get to the point that it’s completely closed.

Oxygen suddenly becomes harder and harder for the body to access and the brain is forced to wake you up to ensure the airway gets reopened and oxygen is accessible.


Oftentimes, the person waking up doesn’t even remember it.

The person may remember waking up and feeling short of breath for a few seconds but nothing that warrants alarm. Occasionally they’ll snort, or gasp attempting to reach air. This repeated pattern of the inability to breathe can repeat anywhere from 5 to 30 times each and every hour of the night. This disrupts the ability of the body to reach a full and restful night sleep.

Half of the time asleep should be in the deepest form of sleep. Most people require at least eight hours of total sleep every single night to function at their best. That means four hours of deep sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea in children works differently than in adults. It can sometimes be cured with a tonsillectomy or an adenoidectomy because of obstructive tonsils or adenoids.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Anyone that has a risk factor for sleep apnea has a significantly more likely chance of developing it when compared to the general population. An example of this might be obesity when considering diabetes type II development. These individuals are significantly more likely to get diabetes type II because it is a risk factor.

Obstructive sleep apnea can happen with absolutely anyone but the risk factors include:

Obese – over 50% of the population that suffers from sleep apnea also suffers from obesity. Excess fat in the body can cause the upper airway to be obstructed. The more obese person is, the more likely they are to have sleep apnea. On the other hand, not every person that has sleep apnea is obese.

Genetics – it’s sometimes believed that genetics may play a role in sleep apnea. If you have a parent or other family member that suffers from sleep apnea then you may be more likely to suffer from it.

Small airway – people who have naturally small airways may suffer from sleep apnea when adenoids are tonsils are enlarged. That can cause a block within an airway preventing breathing.

Ethnicity – Hispanics, blacks, and Pacific Islanders appear to suffer from more instances of obstructive sleep apnea developed earlier in life.

Age – people are more likely to develop sleep apnea at ages above 40 years old. Sleep apnea is 2 to 3 times more likely in patients over the age of 65 years old.

Gender –men are significantly more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than women.

Diabetes –patients suffering from diabetes are significantly more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea as well.

Neck size – the size of a person’s neck has been shown to increase the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. This is typically believed to be an indication of excess body fat or weight that can obstruct the airway. Increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea comes with neck sizes above 17 inches in men. In women that number is 15 inches.

Nasal congestion – chronic nasal congestion sufferers may be more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea due to the narrowed airways.

Unique neck structures – there are a number of different ways that an unusual structure can affect someone’s chances of getting sleep apnea. Narrow airways or unusually large tonsils can obstruct the breathing during sleep.

Hypertension – people that suffer from hypertension/high blood pressure have been shown to have significantly higher rates of obstructive sleep apnea.

Menopause – women are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea after menopause takes place. It’s believed that the hormonal changes cause the throat muscles to relax more.

Smoking – people that smoke or three times as likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Sedatives – With medicine such as sleeping pills and tranquilizers, patients may be more likely to have sleep apnea.

Sildenafil – anti-impotence pills like Viagra many increase the chances of the throat muscles relaxing causing sleep apnea.

Alcohol – alcohol is believed to relax the muscles in the throat.

The Dangers of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Heart problems – High blood pressure is significantly more likely to develop within patients suffering from sleep apnea. The development of high blood pressure increases the likelihood of developing further heart problems like strokes and heart attacks. It can even lead to sudden death from cardiovascular failure. The blood oxygen levels are lowered significantly during sleep apnea periods. That creates an excess strain on the blood pressure and heart as it attempts to provide the oxygen required. The worse the sleep apnea, the more likely someone is to develop high blood pressure. Sleep apnea can also lead to other heart problems including abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation.

Tiredness – people suffering from sleep apnea may experience tiredness throughout their whole day. That can lead to emotional issues like irritability. It can lead to focus problems throughout the whole day. Some people might even fall asleep while working or even while driving. Children that suffer from sleep apnea may have poor performance in school as typical mental development may be strained. It can also lead to behavioral problems. A person treated for sleep apnea can see their breathing improve at night, which can bring back focus and alertness throughout the whole day.

Driving tired – when a person doesn’t get correct amount of sleep at night their body will insist upon receiving sleep at some point. Excessive daytime sleepiness can lead to sleep while driving. People that are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea that is left severe and untreated are 15 times more likely to get into a car crash. Until you are treated for your obstructive sleep apnea you need to be sure that it’s safe.

Medical complications – anesthesia and certain medications can increase the chances of getting obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to complications after any significant surgery. When people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are sedated and lying on their backs they can start to suffer from breathing problems. You need to make sure that your doctor knows you have sleep apnea before you have any surgeries. If sleep apnea has gone unnoticed surgical procedures can be significantly more dangerous. People suffering from sleep apnea need to be treated different postoperatively as well, with limited use of analgesics and sedatives.

Relationship issues – loud snoring can disturb more than just the person sleeping’s sleep. Relationship problems can occur with excessive sleep apnea.

Some other common symptoms for people suffering from attractive sleep apnea include headaches in the morning, emotional problems, the need to urinate frequently at night, and memory problems.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Anyone that thinks they might be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea should ask a friend to watch them while they sleep for a while. Tell them to look out for periods where it looks like you’re not breathing to find out if you might be suffering.

Sleep Studies and Tests

There are a number of tests that may be done to check for sleep apnea including a blood pressure test. One of the first goal of doctors is to rule out other more serious conditions like a underactive thyroid.

If a doctor suspects sleep apnea they may refer you to a sleep disorder center that can help diagnose your issues. A specialist involved in sleep apnea can decide whether or not your case needs examination. One option that may happen is an overnight monitoring of the habits of your body during sleep. This may be required to be done in a sleep center or hospital that can measure everything that occurs.

Nocturnal polysomnography – this test involves a patient being connected to monitors for the lungs, heart and brain while breathing patterns, arm movements, and oxygen levels in the blood pressure are measured consistently.

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Tsvetan Petrov

I am a professional health blogger and nutrition guru, writing for over 7 years!

One thought on “The Real Dangers of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • May 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    I couldn’t agree more, this is such a destructive disease. A real problem for many patients is inadequate sleep, it’s as simple as that.


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