Risks

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 bodyRisk Factors of Sleep Apnea 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.

12 thoughts on “Risks

  1. Harold Masters

    Great source of much needed information. I hope that, as you move along, you will really stress the risks of NOT taking sleep apnea seriously. It clearly increases one’s risk for some really serious and life threatening problems.
    Congratulations on reaching out in a really badly needed area to provide people the information they need.

    Reply
    1. Shawn

      Hi Harold,
      Thanks so much for your feedback! My hope is that people will start to realize that having sleep apnea is dangerous, if not treated. For myself, before I had a knee replacement, the nurse at the hospital told me that I had had a heart attack at some point in the past couple of years. They couldn’t narrow it down to when I had it exactly but they said based on my pre-operative tests that I did have one. I was very surprised at that because I thought it was just a very bad case of acid reflux one night. Given that acid reflux is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea, I’m very grateful that I am now on my CPAP machine. I don’t snore anymore, which makes my wife happy and I don’t have acid reflux anymore either.

      Reply
  2. Aman

    Great Insight!! I was not aware of this because I landed to your blog. Is there any cure for this disorder.

    Reply
    1. Shawn Post author

      Thanks for your comment Aman! As far as I know, there is no cure for sleep apnea. However, if you were to lose weight, it would reduce your sleep apnea because a number of the symptoms would disappear.
      Regards,
      Shawn

      Reply
  3. Mac

    Nothing is worse than living without a peaceful sleep. This not only aggravates the person afflicted but their spouse who gets just as tired as the victim of sleep apnea.
    I did not realize that this problem released ghrelin which may account for some craving associated with weight gain…gee gaining weight while you sleep…I will do more research on this. thanks for your insight!

    Reply
    1. Shawn Post author

      Thanks very much for your comments! My wife would agree with you 100% about not getting a peaceful sleep before I got my CPAP machine. She is so thankful now as I do not snore anymore, thanks to the sleep apnea treatment. Maybe the ghrelin is one of the reasons why I’ve had some weight gain. I didn’t even think of that!

      Best regards,

      Shawn

      Reply
  4. Summerly

    Nice post, lays everything out in an easy way for people to get the information they need fast. My husband has sleep apnea and has just started trying to use a sleep mask. So far it works somewhat, but it seems there will be a lot of adjusting and trail and error until he finds something that works best for him. I should make him take a look at your site!

    Reply
    1. Shawn Post author

      Hi Summerly,
      Thank you for taking the time to look at my site! I appreciate your comments. It may take a bit of time getting used to wearing a CPAP mask, but there are different types out there. Perhaps a smaller nasal mask might make it easier for your husband to adjust to life with a CPAP mask. I hope that he finds the information on my site useful.
      Best regards,
      Shawn

      Reply
  5. Greer

    Hey Shawn, for the longest time I have wondered if I have sleep apnea. While the jury is still out, I believe you have provided enough detailed information that pretty much confirms I do not have it. I meet some of the criteria. I am above 40 years old. My neck size is 171/2. But, I’m not overweight. My blood pressure is normal. I am not a diabetic, although my mother and sisters are. I don’t smoke and I rarely suffer from nasal congestion. But, I rarely get a full 8 hours of sleep except on the weekends. That is because I have so much going on. I guess one day I will settle kinto a routine where i can get sufficient sleep. Then I will needd to consider buying a better mattress. lol!

    Reply
    1. Shawn Post author

      Hi Greer,
      Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it! I believe that one of the key factors is being overweight and if you’re not, then that’s a good sign that you don’t have sleep apnea. You didn’t mention if you snore or not. That is another factor to look out for. Do you know if you stop breathing during the night? That’s a huge factor to watch out for. My blood pressure is also normal, I am not a diabetic and I don’t smoke. But, I am overweight, I snore and I have severe sleep apnea. I hope in your case that you just need to get more sleep during the week, as it appears that you are able to on the weekends.
      Good luck!
      Regards,
      Shawn

      Reply
  6. Greer

    When I saw the title of the website I was truly hoping that the content would favor me having sleep apnea. I was disappointed. I was not at all disappointed in the content. The layout is great. It is very clear. It is thorough and reflects a great deal of research on Shawn’s part. I was able to check off all but three of the risk factors and those three I can’t do anything about. I am at ease though with Shawn’s finding. I am glad I don’t have sleep apnea but I am still trying to pinpoint why I don not get sufficient sleep. Great Work Shawn!

    Reply
    1. Shawn Post author

      Thanks very much for your comments Greer! I am glad to hear that you don’t have sleep apnea, however, the fact that you were able to check off a number of the questions suggests to me that you may still want to go for a sleep study, just to confirm. You may not have it now but because you have some of the symptoms, you may get it down the road. I remember going for my first sleep study and they told me I had mild sleep apnea but it wasn’t worth it to getting a CPAP machine, but 6 years later, I had another sleep study and they confirmed that I had severe sleep apnea. Bottom line, symptoms can change over time, but hopefully for you, that won’t be the case.
      Best regards,
      Shawn

      Reply

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