Sleep Apnea – a Silent Killer

When tragedy strikes, people across the country are left asking a similar question, “Could I have done anything to save my loved one?” Undoubtedly these thoughts reside with everyone at some point during the painful grieving process. Is there anything we can do?

 

This discussion is dedicated to all family and friends that have passed away from a silent killer known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is caused by a physical obstruction in the airway causing a person to stop breathing several times throughout the night. In examining and categorizing overall health, we began by turning to a popular television program familiar with sleep apnea and obesity as an American epidemic — The Biggest Loser. The physicians working with this show succinctly organize health into four pillars: psychological well-being, healthy eating, healthy exercise, and sleep. When the fourth pillar (sleep) is not properly achieved, it severely impacts the success of the other three. Without the proper sleep, your psychological wellness, nutrition, and exercise don’t stand a chance. The reality is that we spend about one third of our life sleeping. Our bodies absolutely need that time of rest so we have the energy and focus to live healthy and balanced lives. If you suffer from even mild sleep apnea, your body is not attaining the ideal rest and rejuvenation it needs, leaving you fatigued all day long. Continuous feelings of exhaustion can trickle down to hormonal imbalance, which leads to poor nutritional choices and cravings, depression, and a lack of energy needed for sustaining exercise routines. With this information, it is easy to understand how a deficiency of proper sleep affects all your pillars of health, as outlined by the physicians of The Biggest Loser program.

One of the greatest dangers of sleep apnea is the physical strain it puts on your organs, specifically the heart. The medical description for normal and proper sleep is defined as “a decreased sympathetic activity which lowers heart rate and blood pressure creating a period of cardiac rest.”  When your heart never experiences the rest it needs, extra stress is placed on the heart walls, which can lead to a fatal and life-threatening situation. It is well known that sleep apnea sufferers experience repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, causing multiple awakenings. Not as well known is that this lowers the saturation of oxygen in your blood and can result in high blood pressure and an increased risk of many heart-related diseases. In addition, sleep awakenings cause acute surges in blood pressure and heart rate, further increasing stress on the heart.
With obstructive sleep apnea, the cardiac rest achieved in normal and proper sleep is not possible. This is the most alarming component of sleep apnea, since it may lead to many complications. If you have a loved one who experiences any sleep apnea symptoms such as snoring, gasping for air during sleep, daytime fatigue, or has already been diagnosed with sleep apnea but is possibly CPAP intolerant, please call our office immediately for a consultation with the doctor. Within a few minutes you could be on your way to helping a friend or family member and possibly even saving his/her life.