The Vicious Cycle

Miss a night of sleep and you’ll probably feel it the next day. No big deal if it happens once in awhile, right? But what about waking up every morning feeling like you didn’t sleep at all? This exact situation happens every day to individuals who are living with obstructive sleep apnea.

This is the reality for one in three adult Americans. These individuals are living with OSA, a type of sleep disorder that causes breathing interruptions during sleep.

Those who are living with the OSA experience daytime fatigue and ‘brain fog’ throughout the day as a result of these breathing interruptions, which can be frustrating.

‘Many people living with undiagnosed OSA or other sleep disorders think they’re getting enough sleep because they’re going to bed at an early hour, but the reality is, they’re not getting restful sleep,’ said Dr. Sean Endsley of Legends Dental in Waco.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. A 2016 report from the AASM states that about 12 percent of the population – nearly 29.4 million people – are affected by a form of sleep apnea.

‘Of this number, nearly 80 percent are undiagnosed, which is a serious problem,’ Endsley said.

Contributors to the condition include being obese or overweight, as well as age. Symptoms of OSA include loud, persistent snoring mixed with pauses in breathing, gasping and snorting.

Those who have severe sleep apnea could experience 500 or more breathing interruptions during eight hours of sleep, while individuals living with milder cases may have around 15 interruptions per hour.

Daytime fatigue is also a consequence of the condition.

‘If you’re not getting restful sleep, you’re going to wake up feeling unrefreshed,’ Endsley said.

The condition often goes undiagnosed because many sufferers don’t fully awaken during sleep when breathing is blocked – so they don’t realize their sleep is being interrupted.

Sleep apnea is a serious problem because the repeated interruptions in breathing cause a significant decrease in oxygen levels during sleep.

Over time, this dip in oxygen can cause issues such as restless legs syndrome, sleepwalking, confusion and memory loss.

Consequences of sleep apnea also include serious health conditions like cognition problems, increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke. Sleep apnea can also cause an increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiac conditions and heart disease.

‘Individuals living with sleep apnea should seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible to reduce their risk of serious health events,’ Endsley said.

Source: U.S. News and World Report. A Patient’s Guide to Sleep Apnea. 8 January 2020.