Men, here’s what you should know about sleep apnea: You are at a 2 to 3 times greater risk of sleep apnea than women with 1 in 4 middle-aged men who suffer from this condition. Men are more prone to sleep apnea than women due to pathophysiological differences between the sexes such as obesity, anatomy, hormones, and aging.
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea or believe you may have it, but choose not to treat it, you are making a mistake. You may think it’s not a huge deal or you believe you can handle the side effects. Besides, why treat something that doesn’t affect your health much, right? Wrong.
Obstructive sleep apnea is an underdiagnosed and undertreated condition that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from. It is estimated that as many as 80 percent of people with unsatisfactory sleep have yet to be diagnosed. Someone can suffer from various symptoms, having no idea the root of the problem is poor sleep quality caused by sleep apnea.
Out of the millions of Americans affected by this chronic condition, at least 9 percent are women, and 24 percent are men who are not getting a good night’s sleep. Obstructive Sleep Apnea/Hypopnea Syndrome (OSAHS) has been found to be the most common cause of sleep apnea. This condition is caused by the repetitive closing of the trachea, which is a person’s airway, while they are asleep.
Apnea means the seconds (more than 10 seconds) when breathing stops because of the obstructed movement of air, while hypopnea is seconds of abnormal and decreased breathing due to obstruction.
The trouble with sleep apnea is that many people need to recognize the symptoms of it or, more likely, are unmotivated to get it diagnosed and treated. That is a mistake. Untreated sleep apnea has many dangers and should be taken seriously. Here are 7 of the best reasons motivating you not to delay in getting this disorder treated:
Having sleep apnea affects the quality of sleep a person gets each night. During a sleep apnea event, the upper respiratory system’s relaxed tissues physically block oxygen, preventing it from reaching the lungs. This forces the brain to wake itself up from certain stages of sleep to signal the body to increase respiratory effort to splint open the airway. This repeated “waking up of the brain” can occur many times during the night. This means the brain never gets adequate rest, resulting in feeling excessively tired upon waking.
By treating sleep apnea, the brain is not interrupted throughout the night so it can achieve the rest it requires, allowing you to feel more awake and alert the next day.
Sleep apnea is not all about you if you have a partner in bed with you each night. That other person next to you will also suffer from lost sleep. The loud, disruptive snoring or the tossing and turning of a restless sleeper is enough to make anyone seek out separate sleeping arrangements. It can also be frightening for your partner if you have more moderate to severe sleep apnea, leading to long breathing pauses followed by choking or gasping sounds to start breathing again.
Many partners of people with sleep apnea will lose sleep over the anxiety it creates for them. If your sleep quality isn’t good enough for treatment, at least think about the sleep loss and fear it is causing for the one next to you in bed.
It’s not just your sleep that is affected by untreated sleep apnea. Your health and even your life depend on seeking treatment. There are many, many studies showing the illnesses and medical problems directly related to anyone who has untreated sleep apnea, which include the following:
Many people who suffer from sleep apnea often wake up with a headache in the morning. Disruptions in breathing during the night cause two things to occur: the carbon dioxide levels in your blood and the oxygen levels in your blood go down. Higher carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream cause the blood vessels in the head and brain to dilate, leading to vascular headaches.
Usually, these headaches go away within half an hour after waking as regular breathing returns the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen levels to normal. But why suffer from morning headaches if you don’t have to by treating sleep apnea?
Constant sleep deprivation takes a toll. When troubles at night with sleep are spilling over into your daily living, affecting the quality of your work at your job or in academics, it’s time to get it treated.
Think of it this way: when you are chronically tired, you are more likely to make mistakes, have trouble recalling important information, have difficulty paying attention, and even lack the motivation to want to get work done. The best way to prevent these problems is to treat your sleep apnea.
Have you ever heard of drowsy driving? Lapses in attention while performing an important task, such as driving when sleep deprived, can result in actual disasters possibly affecting other innocent people. Did you know that driving while feeling sleepy is a serious problem? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 2.5% of fatal crashes and 2% of crashes causing injury are attributed to drowsy driving.
Even some historical disasters are attributed to lack of sleep, including the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the Challenger explosion, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Have your sleep health checked out for your safety and others.
Having undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea can put you at risk when taking certain medications or undergoing general anesthesia during surgeries. Drugs such as sedatives, narcotic analgesics, and general anesthesia can further relax your upper airways, making your sleep apnea symptoms worse.
If you have or suspect sleep apnea, it is important to inform your doctor and anesthesiologist prior to surgery to ensure appropriate precautions are taken to avoid complications.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.