redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Snoring may be an annoying habit, but it may be more serious than originally assumed; researchers believe that snoring is one of the signs of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea can cause difficulties for individuals who are attempting to sleep. In particular, obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form of the sleep disorder and happens when the throat muscles are attempting to relax. Breathing is disputed when the throat and tongue muscles collapse, blocking the airway.
“When a person suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, we often find they also have high blood pressure and some studies show that those patients with obstructive sleep apnea also have a higher cardiovascular mortality rate,” explained Dr. Ihab Hamzeh, an assistant professor of Medicine specializing in Cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), in a prepared statement.
Restlessness and non-refreshing sleep are just a few of the consequences of sleep apnea.
“Those who have high blood pressure, diabetes or are obese — all risk factors for heart disease — tend to also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea,” continued Hamzeh in the statement. “About 1 in 2 people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from high blood pressure.”
The team of investigators believes that cardiovascular health is affected as well.
“If someone has high blood pressure and it is hard to control, we can look into whether or not they have sleep apnea. The gasping for breath, lack of oxygen and sleep disruption puts stress on the body,” noted Hamzeh in the statement. “That stress can also increase the risk of having irregular heart rhythm”. Obstructive sleep apnea has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke.
Furthermore, sleep apnea and heart problems are interconnected with common health risk factors.
“Treating one issue doesn´t solve the other; it does not eliminate the risk of death,” concluded Hamzeh in the statement. “All issues must be treated. Coronary artery disease should be followed closely by a cardiologist. For sleep issues, a sleep expert should be consulted to find the best treatment, such as a CPAP machine, to help keep the airway open.”
Apart from risks to cardiovascular health, another study by researchers at UCLA found that women with sleep apnea have a higher degree of brain damage than men who suffer from the sleep disorder. When the person´s breathing is interrupted, the oxygen level in the blood decreases and causes damage to a multitude of cells in the body.
“This tells us that doctors should consider that the sleep disorder may be more problematic and therefore need earlier treatment in women than men,” remarked the study´s chief investigator Paul Macey, an assistant professor and associate dean of information technology and innovations at the UCLA School of Nursing, in a prepared statement.
In order to shine light on sleep apnea as a health issue, the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) created Sleep Apnea Awareness Day. The organizers of the event wanted to highlight the effect of the illness on approximately 18 million Americans in the U.S., many of whom have not been diagnosed as having sleep apnea.
“Every day is sleep apnea awareness day at the ASAA,” commented executive director Edward Grandi in a prepared statement. “But we designated April 18th as Sleep Apnea Awareness Day because we believe that educating people about sleep apnea’s dangers is critical.”