Are There Any Risks Associated With Sleep Apnea?
While it is possible that anyone can develop sleep apnea, there are a number of risk factors of sleep apnea that put you at a higher risk. They include:
- Being male – men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea. However, women also increase their risk if they’re overweight, and their risk also appears to rise after menopause
- Being overweight – People who are obese have four times the risk of having sleep apnea compared to people who are not overweight. When you’re overweight, you can have fatty deposits in your neck that block breathing at night. Sleep apnea can also make your body release more of a hormone called ghrelin, which makes you crave sweets and carbs. When you’re tired all the time, your body may not be able to turn the food into energy as efficiently, which can lead to more weight gain. Treatment for sleep apnea can make you feel better, giving you more energy so that you can exercise and do other activities. The bottom line is if you can lose enough weight, there is a good chance that you can cure your sleep apnea
- People who are 40 years of age or older – sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in older adults
- Having a large neck size – the airways of people with thicker necks may be narrower. For men, the risk increases if the neck circumference is 17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women
- Having a family history of sleep apnea – you may be at increased risk if you have family members that have sleep apnea
- People who have acid reflux – although there is no real proof that links sleep apnea to acid reflux, which is a kind of heartburn, many people, including myself, believe that it is a problem. My personal experience in using a CPAP machine has eliminated the occurrences of acid reflux, which has allowed me to not require taking the prescribed medicine for acid reflux
- People who have heart disease – people with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have heart attacks. The causes may be due to low oxygen in the blood or the stress of waking up often. Stroke and atrial fibrillation are also conditions associated with sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea disrupts how your body takes in oxygen, it makes it difficult for your brain to control how blood flows in the arteries and the brain itself.
- People who smoke – are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than people who don’t smoke
- People who have high blood pressure – obstructive sleep apnea can make it worse. Waking up during the night can affect your hormones which can boost your blood pressure levels because the level of oxygen in your blood can drop. Treatment for sleep apnea may result in people being able to cut back on their blood pressure medications.
- People who are diabetic – up to 80% of people who are diabetic also have obstructive sleep apnea. Although studies haven’t shown a clear link between sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes, not getting enough shut-eye can keep your body from using insulin properly, which can lead to diabetes.
- People who have nasal congestion – if you have difficulty breathing through your nose, for whatever reason, you may be more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea
- Car accidents – When you are exhausted, it can increase your risk of falling asleep at the wheel. People with sleep apnea are up to five times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents
The risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke also increases the more severe the obstructive sleep apnea is. Studies have shown that men with obstructive sleep apnea are more at risk of heart failure, but this does not necessarily hold true for women.