Reduced sleep quality leads to chronic sleepiness throughout the day. Sleepiness can affect quality of life, motivation, and raise one’s risk of injury while at work or driving. People with sleep apnea are 2-3 times more likely to get into a car accident and 5-7 times more likely to get into multiple accidents. Untreated sleep apnea sufferers are more likely to be irritated, moody, and depressed. People with even mild sleep apnea are twice as likely to have depression as those without while those with moderate to severe sleep apnea are 2 to 6 times as likely to suffer from depression.
The absence of restful sleep can cause difficulty concentrating and memory
disturbance, also known as cognitive impairment. These factors can affect job
performance and productivity. Research has suggested that people with OSA show a loss of tissue in brain regions associated with memory which may cause irreversible memory loss.
Sleep apnea and obesity feed on each other and create a deadly downward spiral of disease. Repeated arousals during sleep may result in insulin resistance and poor regulation of blood sugars. In addition, hormonal changes may increase the storage of fat and increased appetite for high calorie foods, leading to further weight gain. Ninety percent of morbidly obese males and fifty percent of morbidly obese females have sleep apnea. A PAP device, the gold standard for treating OSA,, such as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or APAP (Auto-titrating positive airway pressure) has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and improve blood sugar control.
Patients with moderate-to-severe sleep apnea have a greater risk of death from heart disease and heart failure. One third of patients with sleep apnea also show symptoms of congestive heart failure. Heart failure can be exacerbated by sleep apnea and leads to a greater chance of death. Between 11-37% of patients with heart failure have sleep apnea. It is strongly recommended that any new patient with congestive heart failure should be screened for sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is considered an identifiable cause of high blood pressure (hypertension) and is observed in 50-70% of patients. Sleep apnea has been identified as the most common cause of secondary hypertension in the US. As with congestive heart failure, it is recommended that all patients with newly diagnosed or difficult-to-control hypertension should be screened for sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is often accompanied by very loud snoring which can affect the quality of sleep of the sufferers’ bed partners. As a result, spouses or partners may also suffer from sleeplessness and fatigue. In some cases, the snoring can disrupt relationships, forcing couples to sleep apart and affecting intimacy. Diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea can help alleviate these problems.