Top 6 Health Conditions Linked to Sleep Apnea

  • Young woman sleeping
    Losing More Than Sleep
    More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop during sleep. It can last from seconds to minutes and happen 30 or more times an hour. Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, but the disorder is more serious than it appears. It is linked to many health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

  • woman-on-scale
    1. Obesity
    Nearly half of overweight people have obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity is associated with sleep apnea in two ways. Being overweight increases the amount fat tissue around the windpipe, narrowing the breathing passage. This boosts the risk of obstruction during sleep, which reduces airflow. Sleep apnea can also make it hard for your body to use energy normally. This makes it easier to gain weight, increasing your risk of obesity. It’s important to work at getting to healthy weight in order to break this cycle.

  • diabetes-blood-sugar-testing
    2. Diabetes
    Sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes often occur together. This may be because many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, which often goes hand-in-hand with sleep apnea. Researchers also find that sleep apnea itself may increase the risk of diabetes.

  • close up of black male touching heart
    3. Heart Disease
    Sleep apnea is linked to many types of heart disease. Sleep apnea can lower the amount of oxygen in your blood and interfere with good, restful sleep. Your body may react by releasing stress hormones. These hormones increase heart rate and the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, and abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias). In addition, people with sleep apnea often have other heart disease risks, such as obesity and diabetes.

  • serious-senior-man-looking-out-window
    4. Stroke
    Stress hormones triggered by sleep apnea can also increase your risk of stroke. Sleep apnea has been shown to significantly increase blood pressure—a major risk factor for stroke. Most strokes occur when a blood vessel is blocked, cutting off blood flow to the brain. Sleep apnea may also damage blood vessels in the brain. Nearly 70% of people with stroke have sleep apnea, and they may not recover as well as people without sleep apnea.

  • tired senior woman sitting at office desk
    5. Daytime Sleepiness
    Other problems caused by sleep apnea include poor sleep, fatigue, irritability, and daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea can also affect how well you concentrate during the day. These problems can be serious. Sleep apnea doubles your risk of having a traffic accident, and people who snore and have daytime sleepiness are twice as likely to have an accident at work.

  • Young toddler boy laying on couch on top of sleeping dog
    6. Sleep Apnea in Children
    The most common cause of sleep apnea in children is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Childhood obesity is a less common cause, but having a healthy weight at any age is important to preventing other diseases connected to sleep apnea, such as type 2 diabetes. Untreated sleep apnea in children can also lead to permanent heart and lung damage. This is in addition to causing daytime sleepiness and irritability, both of which affect school performance.

  • Woman awakes with a stretch
    Better Nights and Vibrant Days
    Sleep apnea can be serious. Talk to your doctor if you snore or think you might have sleep apnea. A painless sleep study test can determine if you have the disorder. Modern treatments can help you get a good night’s rest, reduce the risk of many serious health problems, and ensure your day is vibrant.

Top 6 Health Conditions Linked to Sleep Apnea

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  1. Sleep Apnea and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed October 18, 2013.
  2. What Is Sleep Apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed October 18, 2013.
  3. Functional and Economic Impact of Sleep Loss and Sleep-Related Disorders. National Academy of Sciences. Accessed October 26, 2013
  4. Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed October 26, 2013.
  5. What Causes Sleep Apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed October 26, 2013.
  6. Obstructive sleep apnea as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Accessed October 26, 2013.
  7. Basics of Sleep Apnea and Ischemic Stroke. Sleep Apnea and CV disease. Accessed October 26, 2013.
  8. Sleep Apnea and Heart disease. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed October 26, 2013.
  9. Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Accessed October 26, 2013.
  10. NINDS sleep apnea information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Accessed October 18, 2013.
  11. Sleep Apnea. American Sleep Apnea Association. Accessed October 18, 2013.
  12. What Is Sleep Apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed October 18, 2013.
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Last Review Date: 2018 Mar 4
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